Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110223

Financial Crisis
»Blowouts: EU: EIB to Issue 6 Bln Euros in Loans in 2011-2013
»Croatia: Unemployment Near 20%, Highest in 8 Years
»Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown: ‘We’re at a Huge Transition Phase in Our History’
»Greece: Record Number of Store Closures in Downtown Athens
»Greece: Public Debt to 340 Bln Euros
»Greece: 10th General Strike, ‘Tahrir Square in Athens’
»Italy: January Inflation Posts Biggest Jump in Over Two Years
»Libya: Crisis Drives Up Oil Prices, Brent at 108 Dollars
»Libya: Federmeccanica, 3% Exports at Risk With Egypt-Tunisia
»Libya: Harsh Blow to European Airlines, IATA
»Oil Could Hit $220 a Barrel on Libya and Algeria Fears, Warns Nomura
»Poland is Europe’s New High-Flyer
»Spain: Demand for 3-Month Bonds Declines
»Super Mario: Europe’s Next Top Banker May be Italian
»Swedish Housing ‘Bubble’ About to Burst: Agency
»Syria: Tax Cuts on Investment Income and Food Imports
»Berlin Pressures US to Free Convicted Murderer
»Durie: Stop Opening Churches to Muslims
»Kupelian, Sperry Unravel Muslim Bros. On Hannity
»Lawsuit: ‘Honor Killings’ OK by Michigan Shariah
»Obama Stops Defending Law Against Gay Marriage
»Tulsa Police Captain Files Federal Lawsuit
»Tulsa Police Captain in Flap Over Islamic Invitation Files Lawsuit
»Why Are Americans So Ill-Informed About Climate Change?
Europe and the EU
»Black Cobra Could Reach Into Finland
»‘British Troops Burn in Hell’: Muslim Extremists Face EDL Supporters in Ugly Scenes Outside Poppy-Burning Trial
»Cameron: Multiculturalism Speech Not Attack on Muslims
»Europe’s Stuttering Timidity in Denouncing the Persecution of Christians
»Italy: Anti-Berlusconi Slogans Attached to Trevi Fountain
»Italy: Corruption ‘Pathological’ Says Court
»Italy: ENI Suspends Delivery of Gas From Libya Via Greensteam Pipeline
»Italy: Revenue Board: Corruption, Fraud Present in Public Admin.
»Italy: Libya Unrest May Unleash Wave of ‘350,000’ Migrants
»Italy: Government: FLI: Inquiry Committee on Alleged MP Corruption
»Journalist in France Convicted for Anti-Muslim Hate Speech
»Libya: Al Arabiya Reports 10,000 Dead
»Netherlands: OM Permits Calling Duisenberg Anti-Semitic
»Netherlands: Wilders Criticises VVD, CDA Election Campaign
»Spain: 13 Injured After Man Launches Stabbing Attack in Ibiza
»Temperatures Due for Sharp Fall Throughout Italy
»UK: European Human Rights: Rent Arrests Tenant Cannot be Evicted Rules Judge
»UK: Oman Gift to Promote Religious Understanding
»UK: Poppy-Burning Demo ‘Left Me Sick’
»UK: SAS Troops ‘To be Deployed on the Streets’ To Prevent Terrorist Attacks
»UK: Teenager Battered for Refusing Arranged Marriage After Father Sold Her as £10,000 Bride
»UK: Toddler Facing Blindness From a Birthmark is Refused Laser Treatment to Save Her Eyesight by Cost-Cutting NHS Trust
»UK: Watchdog Says Electric Cars ‘Are as Dirty as Diesel’
»Kosovo: Key Witness at Ex-Premier’s Trial Refuses to Testify Before UN Tribunal
»Serbia: Serb Ultranationalist Seselj Denies Contempt of UN Court
Mediterranean Union
»Libya: NGO Network Euromed: EU Must Stop Massacre
»Libya: EU: 18.5 Mln for Health and Immigration Projects
North Africa
»Algeria: State of Emergency Lifted, it Was in Force Since 1993
»Algeria: Opposition Divided, No to Political Parties
»Algeria: Students’ Requests Met After Protests
»Berlusconi to Gaddafi, Protesters Not Given Italian Rockets
»Berlusconi: ‘Think About What Regime Change Will Bring’
»Bloodshed in Libya: The Impotence of the West
»Chinese Workers Set Out on Long March Through Libyan Desert to Reach Tripoli
»E. U. Suspends All Weapons Deals With Libya
»Egyptian Interior Ministry in Flames
»Gaddafi’s Last Stand: Europe Dithers
»Gaddafi’s Daughter on Plane Turned Away From Malta
»Gaddafi Expects ‘Big Father’ Role in New Order, Says Son
»Libya Oil Cut But ‘No Worries’
»Libya: Erdogan: Authorities Should Not Ignore Democracy Claims
»Libya: ‘1,000 Killed’ By Security Forces During Unrest Says Italy-Based Expat Group
»Libya: ENI is Oil Company With Most to Lose in Libya
»Libya: Bloodshed Continues, Gaddafi Holds on and Threatens
»Libya: Karim Mezran: Fear Somali Effect on Country
»Libya: Concrete Sanctions Against Tripoli, Sarkozy
»Libya: Violence and Degradation Against Tunisian Refugees
»Libya: Berlusconi Calls Gaddafi to Deny Italy Armed Anti-Govt Protesters
»Libya: Berlusconi — ‘No’ To Risk of Fundamentalist Trigger
»Libya: Frattini: Cyrenaica Not Under Government Control
»Libya: Ahmadinejad Condemns Civilian Killings, Warns Unrest Could Spread to West
»Libya’s Gaddafi Did Personally Order Lockerbie Bombing and I Have Proof, Claims Former Justice Minister
»Libya: Tens of Thousands Escaping to Egypt and Tunisia
»Libya Protests: Fighter Crew Deliberately Crash Jet After Gaddafi Bomb Order
»Libya Protests: The Tangled Web Keeping Gaddafi in Power
»Libya: Civil War Breaks Out as Gaddafi Mounts Rearguard Fight
»Libya: Tony Blair ‘Too Close’ To Gaddafi Regime, David Cameron Claims
»Morocco Allocates $5b to Improve Social Services
»Report: Libyan Fighter Jet Crashes Near City of Benghazi
»Saudi King Returns to Riyadh and Promises Public Subsidies
»‘The West Saw Gadhafi as Indispensable’
»The EU is Weak and Clueless on Libya
»Tunisia: Former Trade Minister Arrested
»Uprising in Libya: ‘Survival Hinges on Tribal Solidarity’
»‘We Are Fair Game’: Thousands of Egyptian Migrant Workers Flee Libya
»WikiLeaks: Gaddafi Family Feud Over Business Fortunes — the Economic Times
Israel and the Palestinians
»Gaza: Israeli Soldiers Wound 4 Jihad Militants
»Is the West Bank Next?
»Islamist Leader Arrested for Forest Fire Arson
»Peres: Israel Has Reasons to be Angry With Europe
»Stakelbeck on Terror Show: Live From Jerusalem
»University: EU: Soon Info Day in Ramallah on Erasmus Mundus
Middle East
»$40b Missing From Iraqi Development Fund — Worst Corruption Case Ever Incites Iraqi Street
»An Unusual Event in Saudi Arabia — Labor Strike in Makkah
»Bahrain: 23 Shiites Freed, Leader of Opposition Pardoned
»Blowouts: Peres: Dictators, No Future in Transparent World
»Frattini: Israel is the Only Democracy
»It is Not Prejudice or Racism to Suggest Arabs ‘Can’t Do Democracy’
»Italy-UAE: Defence: Fincantieri Boosts Presence in Gulf
»Jordan: February 25 Day of Rage, Opposition
»Medvedev Sees ‘Fires for Decades’ In Arab World
»Mubarakism Without Mubarak, Or Arab ‘Paradigm Shift’
»Murder a Fact of Life for Women in Turkey
»Saudi Arabia: King Abdullah Announces Aid to Population
»Saudi Arabia: King Abdullah Distributes Benefits
»Thousands of Kurds Protest in Sulaimaniyah
»Tiny Bahrain Poses Big Headache for the West
»Beer to be Classified as Alcohol for First Time in Russia
»Russian Envoy Calls for Tourism to be Stopped in Caucasus Resort
Far East
»Beijing Organising Exodus of 33,000 Chinese From Libya, Taiwanese Too
»China: Italian Shoemakers Eye Strong Export Demand
»Egypt and the Fears of Beijing: A Revolution in China is Inevitable
»North Korea: First Public Protests Against the Kims’ Regime
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Senegal Freezes Relations With Iran Over Arms Trading
»Somali Pirates May Face Trial in U.S.
Latin America
»Brazil: Lula Accused of Administrative Impropriety
»Dozens of Tunisians Intercepted Off Lampedusa as Migrant Influx Continues
»E. U. Agency Expects Up to 1. 5 Million Immigrants
»EU to Help Italy With North African Migration ‘When Necessary’
»Italy Asks Europe to Take Control of Migrant Crisis
»Libya: UNHCR: Fears for Asylum Seekers and Refugees
»Libya: Risk of 200-300 Thousand Immigrants on Italy Shores
»Netherlands: Minister Tightens Up Asylum Procedure
»UK: Nigerian Olaide Taiwo Stole 350 Ids to Claim £1.3m Benefits
Culture Wars
»Boy, Aged 11, Arrested for Drawing Stick Figure With a Gun and Writing, ‘Teachers Must Die’
»Ecclesiastic Court: Pornography as Grounds for Annulment
»UK: Anger as Word ‘Marriage’ Vanishes From Birth Statistics
»UK: It is Good Manners, Not Political Correctness, To Reject the Word ‘Kaffir’
»Commercial Aircraft Deaths Worldwide Up 15 Percent
»Not Just a Face in the Crowd: The Larger the Gathering, The ‘More Unique the Individual’

Financial Crisis

Blowouts: EU: EIB to Issue 6 Bln Euros in Loans in 2011-2013

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 22 — The European Investment Bank (EIB) is ready to support the democratic transition of the southern Mediterranean countries and has raised its loans to the region in the 2011-2013 period to six billion euros. The announcement was made by the chairman of the EIB, the financial branch of the EU, Philippe Maystadt, in a press meeting in Brussels. The loans are granted by the EIB to Tunisia and Egypt, not Libya. “If necessary, we are ready to do more to help these countries in their transition towards democracy”, said Maystadt. “If the European Council approves the request made by the European Parliament, we will be able to make a substantial difference in the coming three years, raising the ceiling of our loans to six billion euros” from the current 2.8 billion, the EIB chairman continued. The European Parliament has already asked to raise this ceiling by one billion euros. If the member States agree, the available sum will be immediately raised to 3.8 billion euros.

To this another 0.7 could be added for climate change projects in the Mediterranean area, 1.2 billion which the EIB would supply at its own risk and 0.3 billion of surplus from previous operations.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Croatia: Unemployment Near 20%, Highest in 8 Years

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, FEBRUARY 22 — Unemployment in Croatia has reached its highest level in the last eight years. The 19.6% figure recorded in January is close to being the highest ever since the country gained independence in 1991, according to figures released today by the national institute of statistics (DZS) in Zagreb.

The rate has grown by almost one per cent in the space of a month, with around 20,000 people newly unemployed. The total number of people without work is 334,000, the highest figure since April 2003.

Experts and economic analysts predict that unemployment will rise further in the coming months to 20-21%. Like every year, the summer will see a light seasonal recovery due to tourism, while real improvement is only likely to be registered in 2012, provided that there is a recovery in the productive sector.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown: ‘We’re at a Huge Transition Phase in Our History’

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was at the helm in London when the global financial system came close to collapse in the autumn of 2008. SPIEGEL spoke with Brown about his snap decision to recapitalize British banks and asked him why global regulation has been so long in coming.

Brown: The Royal Bank of Scotland would have collapsed within hours. HBOS was not far behind, and in that case, other European and American banks would have followed. I think people still misunderstand, in retrospect, the scale of the collapse that we were facing: It would have been absolutely catastrophic.

SPIEGEL: Would the ATM’s have stopped handing out money?

Brown: Most likely. People would have been in panic about their savings, there would have been a run on the banks. But what worried me most was: At this moment there was a total lack of leadership about the way forward, both within banks and governments. The banks still deceived themselves. One banker told me on the day before his bank collapsed: “All we need is overnight funds.” He didn’t even realize that his institution was virtually on the brink…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Record Number of Store Closures in Downtown Athens

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 22 — Sixty-five thousand commercial stores have closed down and 100,000 jobs have been lost all over Greece in the past 13 months, as ANA reports. Of these, 25% have closed in the wider region of downtown Athens according to the latest data by the Athens Trade Society. The main reason is the inability of owners to pay their rents that constitute the biggest burden on the stores’ operational cost. Over the last three months a downward trend is being observed in the rents of downtown stores that reaches up to 30%.

The stores that are estimated to have closed, according to the Athens Trade Society’s data, are only groundfloor stores and those located on floors are not included.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Public Debt to 340 Bln Euros

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 22 — Despite the harsh economic measures adopted by the Greek government to improve their public finances, the public debt in the country continues to rise. According to the general accounting office, as at September 31 2010 the debt had increased by 42 billion euros to 340.2 billion euros — 147% of GDP — compared to 298.52 billion euros at the end of 2009. According to the Finance Ministry, this figure does not include the debts of businesses in which the government has a stake, hospitals or welfare organisms.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: 10th General Strike, ‘Tahrir Square in Athens’

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 23 — “Let’s transform Syntagma Square in Athens into Cairo’s Tahrir Square, until Premier Giorgio Papandreou resigns!” is the slogan launched by Alekos Alavanos, historical leader of the Greek left, in today’s general strike across the country against the austerity measures brought in to deal with the economic-financial crisis. Alavananos, deputy and former president of the far-left coalition Syriza, has urged Greeks to remain in Syntagma Square in front of Parliament at the end of the large demonstrations called for midday as part of the general strike called by all unions. “We are learning from the Egyptian people. Let’s do as they did in Tahrir Square, let’s stay here until Papandreou’s government has stepped down,” said Alavanos. It is not clear whether Syriza and the rest of the left, who are putting up opposition to the Socialist government both in Parliament and in the streets, or the anarchist movement, will take on Alavanos’s appeal as well. Today’s strike, the tenth general one since the beginning of the crisis, will partially paralyse air traffic and urban transport, and will bring maritime and railway traffic to a complete halt, with hospitals also closed (except for emergencies) as well as public offices, schools, banks and pharmacies. There will also be an information black-out for 24 hours.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: January Inflation Posts Biggest Jump in Over Two Years

Rome, 23 Feb. (AKI) — Inflation in Italy rose an annual 2.1 percent in January, the highest rate since December 2008, as consumers paid more for housing heat, power and food, national statistics agency Istat said on Wednesday. Italian prices rose 0.4 percent in January from December, according to Istat’s data.

January’s housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuel prices gained 4 percent over the year-earlier period, while food rose 1.6 percent and transportation cost 4.3 percent more, according to Rome-based Istat.

Family spending in Rome, the capital and the country’s largest city, jumped 2.4 percent while that of households in Milan, the Italian business and finance hub, rose 1.6 percent.

In 2011, the basket of 1,377 goods used to calculate inflation for the first time includes Tablet PCs such as iPads, ethnic fast food, and smoked salmon, while in a sign of the times, rental DVDs were removed.

Italian economist Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, a member of the European Central Bank’s executive board, on 27 January said economic recovery in Europe remains uncertain in industrialised countries. The increasing price of Asian imports together with higher food and commodity prices are likely to result in inflation, he said.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Libya: Crisis Drives Up Oil Prices, Brent at 108 Dollars

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 22 — The Libyan crisis is affecting the oil markets. Brent prices increased to 108 dollars per barrel, the highest level since September 2008, and should the situation not stabilise quickly it could drive prices higher and pose hazards fro the global economic recovery which, as recently stated by the G20, continues but in a “non homogeneous” manner.

Libya is a major country in terms of energy, including both oil and gas. It is the fourth largest African oil producer, following Nigeria, Algeria and Angola, with a daily production of 1.8 million barrels. It is also growing larger in terms of methane, with estimated reserves certified by Opec amounting to 1,540 billion cubic metres and exports amounting to 10 billion cubic metres per year. As a result, in the event of a cut or stop to production, the world market, and especially the European one, would find itself lacking major quantities of oil.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Federmeccanica, 3% Exports at Risk With Egypt-Tunisia

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 22 — Italian engineering firms in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia export for around 3.8 billion per year, equal to around 3% exported by the sector. This was announced by Federmeccanica vice chairman Luciano Miotto during the presentation of the economic survey of the sector. “3% of our business is at risk”, he said. In Libya alone engineering companies export for around 1 billion euros (0.7% of exports) while the sector exports for 1.7 billion euros in goods per year in Egypt. Engineering firms in Tunisia export for 1.1 billion. In North Africa as a whole, Federmeccanica explains, exports of Italian engineering companies are worth five billion euros.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Harsh Blow to European Airlines, IATA

(ANSAmed) — TOKYO, FEBRUARY 23 — The outlook for European airlines is by no means positive after the protests which have broken out in Libya, North Africa and the Middle East, a large area which accounts for 17% of overall air traffic. “In the 2011 outlook, at the beginning of the year we forecast total profit at 9 billion dollars, 4 for Asia, 3 for the US and 0-100 million dollars as the share for European airlines,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA the international air transport association) general director. “It is clear,” he added in speaking to ANSA, “that everything will need to be revised, taking into account also the rise in oil prices.” The immediate impact is already seen in the area: Egyptair, Egypt’s national carrier, “has 80% of its fleet” on the ground after the breaking out of protests.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Oil Could Hit $220 a Barrel on Libya and Algeria Fears, Warns Nomura

Nomura’s commodity team said oil prices risk vaulting to uncharted highs over coming weeks if chaos hits Algeria as well, reducing global spare capacity to the wafer-thin margins seen just before the first Gulf War. On Wednesday, Brent crude rose more than 5pc to almost $112 a barrel, threatening levels that could derail the global economy. “We could see $220 a barrel should both Libya and Algeria halt oil production. We could be underestimating this as speculative activiites were largely not present in 1990-1991,” said Michael Lo, the bank’s oil strategist.

The warning came as Italy’s ENI announced a suspension of supplies through Libya’s gas pipeline, and a string of foreign companies evacuated staff and shut production. Libya holds Africa’s biggest oil reserves and produces 1.6m barrels a day (b/d), mostly for export to Europe.

The German driller Winthershall halted its 100,000 b/d production in Libya, while ENI stopped at a string of sites, vastly reducing its flow of 550,000 b/d. A number of producers have declared “force majeure”. Barclays Capital said 1m b/d of Libyan output is “shut in”, with the other 0.6m at risk. While Saudi Arabia can step in by raising output, this takes time and its oil is not a substitute for Libya’s “sweet crude”.

The escalating crisis set off further falls on global bourses. Wall Street was down 1pc in early trading and the FTSE 100 fell 1.2pc. The Dow has shed more than 300 points over the past three days to 12,075. Nomura said a shut-down in both Libya and Algeria would cut global supply by 2.9m b/d and reduce OPEC spare capacity to 2.1m b/d, comparable with levels at the onset of the Gulf War and worse than during the 2008 spike, when prices hit $147.

Both price shocks preceeded — or triggered — a recession in Europe and the US. Fatih Birol, chief economist for the International Energy Agency, said the latest price rise had already become a “serious risk” for the fragile economies of the OECD bloc.

Some analysts fear the underlying picture is worse that officially recognised, doubting Saudi claims of ample spare capacity. A Wikileaks cable cited comments by a geologist for the Saudi oil giant Aramco that the kingdom’s reserves had been overstated by 40pc. A second cable cited US diplomats asking whether the Saudis “any longer have the power to drive prices down for a prolonged period”.

Nomura’s report, which does not examine the catastrophic scenario of a full-blown Gulf crisis, said past oil shocks have shown a three-stage pattern, with a final blow-off in prices in the final phase. The current crisis is at stage one.

Surging oil prices create a nasty dilemma for central banks since they are inflationary if caused by robust global growth, but deflationary if caused by a supply crunch that acts as a tax on consuming nations. The big oil exporters tend to save extra revenues from price spikes at first, so the initial effect is to drain global demand…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Poland is Europe’s New High-Flyer

Sven Doering / DER SPIEGELPoland, once a backward agricultural country, is quickly becoming an economic powerhouse in Central Europe. The Poles are strongly pro-European, and even their relationship with the Germans is no longer as tense as it was just a few years ago. Nowhere is the transformation easier to see than in Wroclaw.

The third-richest man in Poland had arrived in Wroclaw by private jet in the morning. Leszek Czarnecki, a slim, tanned man, is now sitting on the 12th floor of the Wroclaw Arcade, gazing out at the center of the formerly German city. Czarnecki owns the arcade, an office building and shopping center complex.

He doesn’t spend much time in this office, and the furniture looks like it could be from Ikea. It’s the office of a man who doesn’t feel a need to impress his guests. It has a view of the construction site of the “Sky Tower,” which, when completed in the spring, will soar up 212 meters (695 feet), making it Poland’s tallest building. Czarnecki also owns this new building.

He came to Wroclaw today to set up a new company, but by noon he’ll already be back in the air on the way to his next destination. The 48-year-old Czarnecki, a restless man, has established a number of firms in recent years, including a high-end furniture company and a bank that specializes in the very rich. Getin Holding, which he owns, acquired a few small financial service providers and insurance companies and bought up all the shares in Allianz Bank Polska. About 2,000 jobs were created in the process. Czarnecki’s various businesses are all doing splendidly. And the global economic crisis? It was non-existent for Czarnecki as it was, in fact, for all of Poland.

Europe’s Most Optimistic People

The country has benefited from its accession to the European Union and globalization more than almost any other. Twenty years ago, the deeply Catholic country was largely agricultural and considered backward and provincial, a millstone around Europe’s neck. Since then, however, Poland has experienced an almost nonstop boom.

Even when the rest of Europe was suffering through a recession in 2009, Poland’s economy grew by 1.7 percent. Thanks to its accession to the EU in 2004, unemployment fell from more than 20 percent to about 8 percent today.

The boom has been most evident in the cities. Warsaw and Poznan, for example, have full employment. According to surveys, Poles are among Europe’s most optimistic people. They have never had it as good as they do today.

Warsaw is also at peace with itself politically. Prime Minister Donald Tusk runs the government with a stabile majority, while nationalist extremists on the left and right are no longer represented in Poland’s parliament, the Sejm. Poland is now on excellent terms with Berlin and has toned down its rhetoric toward Moscow; the country is also no longer seen as an unpredictable obstructionist in Brussels. Almost a quarter century after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the country of 38 million has become a respected regional power…

           — Hat tip: Takuan Seiyo[Return to headlines]

Spain: Demand for 3-Month Bonds Declines

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 22 — Today, Madrid sold 3 and 6-month bonds on the market worth a total of 2.87 billion euros, compared to an objective of 3.5 billion. The 3-month bonds were sold at an interest rate of 1.101%, while 6-month bonds were sold at an interest rate of 1.588%. Demand was three times greater than the amount offered for 3-month bonds, in decline compared to the auction in January when demand was 5.48 times greater. Demand was 5.51 times greater than the amount of 6-month bonds offered, on the rise from 5.11 in the previous auction.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Super Mario: Europe’s Next Top Banker May be Italian

Axel Weber has taken himself out of the running, and the candidate from Finland has also withdrawn: That leaves an Italian, Mario Draghi, in line to succeed Jean-Claude Trichet as head of the European Central Bank. A man from a deeply indebted EU nation may now be tasked with saving the euro.

What was Mario Draghi supposed to become, if not a central banker? When he was born in 1947, his father was busy in Rome, trying to organize the printing of post-war Italian money. Now the son is in charge in the same building — the Palazzo Koch on the Via Nazionale — as governor of the Banca d’Italia.

The reputation of Italy’s central bank has historically been somewhat dubious. Speculative bubbles, bursts of inflation, and currency crises all have had their origins in the Palazzo Koch, and many of the bank chiefs — named to life-long positions, like popes — have meddled in both national politics and engaged in back-room deals. They’re not held in the highest esteem. Draghi’s predecessor at the bank, Antonio Fazio, was driven from office in 2005 by a massive scandal involving corruption, insider trading and abuse of office.

So will the new “Mr. Euro” be recruited from this shady institution? Quite possibly. Draghi’s is the name most frequently heard among candidates to succeed Jean-Claude Trichet as president of the European Central Bank — after Axel Weber, the head of the German Central Bank, annouced that he had decided to quit this April and also turned down the European job.

‘This Italian’

The question is: Should he be responsible for the stability of the continent’s currency? Should the future head of the ECB, a conservative institution modelled on Germany’s inflation-battling Bundesbank, come from a nation with a distinct culture of inflation and the second-highest level of sovereign debt in the euro zone?

Leading German politicians have rejected the idea in private. They see no way of explaining it to German voters. Meanwhile the mass-circulation Bild blares: “No Way” will “This Italian” become president of the ECB, which “Oversees the Legacy of the Good, Stable German Mark.”

But Chancellor Angela Merkel rarely lets Bild get in her way, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy has lobbied for the Italian. So the decision seems all but settled. EU leaders will make a final decision at a summit in June, and it’s hard to imagine them voting against the will of their two most powerful members.

Even if the EU leaders were to reject simply accepting Merkel and Sarkozy’s choice and instead look for the best-qualified candidate for the job, the Italian would still find himself near the top of any shortlist.

‘The Best Europe Has to Offer’

Prominent economists around the world, including the American Nouriel Roubini, believe in Draghi. Finance Ministers like Luc Frieden, from Luxembourg, describe him as “impressive and intelligent.” Former German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück says that Draghi “is always very independent, very quiet and technically excellent” at international financial summits like the G-8 or the G-20. In the banking headquarters in the City of London — where he served for a few years as European head of the American investment bank Goldman Sachs — he’s known as “Super Mario.”

The Financial News, a British trade journal, named him second on a list of the most influential people in European finance, behind Deutsche Bank investment chief Anshu Jain. (The head of Deutsche Bank, Josef Ackermann, hovers at slot six, while Axel Weber from the Bundesbank and Jean-Claude Trichet languish far below.) “The entire international financial establishment supports Draghi,” says a Brussels insider quoted in the Financial Times Deutschland. He’s supposedly “the best man Europe has to offer.”

Draghi is very different from Italy’s prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. He’s quiet and polite. He’s friendly but shy of the public, though he can be hard-headed when it comes to work. He believes there’s no reason to “spend time talking and making compromises when there’s only one solution,” he said in a recent rare interview. He doesn’t go to glamorous parties. When he finds the time, he might go hiking or mountain climbing. He’s married, with two children, but little is known about his private life. He embodies a national alternative to Berlusconi, who embarrasses many Italians.

Draghi studied first in Rome before earning a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the prestigous American university near Boston, and then taught in Florence as a professor of economics. He went to Washington as the Italian executive director of the World Bank in 1984, and in 1990 he returned home to serve as the top official in Italy’s Finance Ministry. Five ministers came and went, but he remained, as a quiet but strong figure. He privatized ailing public enterprises; now they bring some €60 billion ($82 billion) into state coffers. Under Treasury Minister Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, he set out to reform the highly-indebted state budget, which was a prerequisite for Italy’s accession to the euro zone in 1999.

Draghi left government when Berlusconi took office in 2001. He took a year off to study at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard before switching to a career in the private sector. Then he took the job at Goldman Sachs. French President Sarkozy considers this move a black mark on Draghi’s resume. For Peer Steinbrück it seems “more of an advantage than a disadvantage” for a continental banker “to understand the Anglo-American world.” When the Banca d’Italia threatened to sink near the end of 2005, the Berlusconi government called him home. He was meant to serve as both savior and figurehead, but also — though it wasn’t clear to his bosses yet — as a high-level admonisher….

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Swedish Housing ‘Bubble’ About to Burst: Agency

Sweden’s National Housing Credit Guarantee Board (Bostadskreditnämnd — BKN) has warned that spiralling household mortgage debt will dramatically impact house prices in the near future.

BKN, which is a government agency which administers government credit guarantee programmes for housing development, has forwarded its analysis in a new market report published on Wednesday.

“We have had a bubble for the past two years and it will deepen as the interest rates rise. When we return to normal interest rate levels of around 5.5 percent, it will start to become noticeable,” said Bengt Hansson at BKN told The Local on Wednesday.

The report, entitled “Household debt in the wake of the financial crisis — an international comparison”, argued that despite some adjustment in interest rates and bank credit margins, the housing market has not adapted to a tighter financial climate.

“Real house prices are still high in a historical perspective and there is much to indicate that house prices are to a great extent held up by artificial monetary policy-driven low interest rates,” BKN wrote in its report.

Several observers shared BKN’s view that mortgage interest rates will soon climb to 5.5 percent, but despite the interest rate progression BKN is concerned that household debt continues to accumulate at a rapid pace.

“Based on the fundamentals — such as income development and other factors — house prices are at unsustainable levels. We estimate that prices are around 20 percent above what they should be,” Bengt Hansson said.

But this assessment is disputed by Hans Lind, a professor in housing economics at Stockholm’s Royal Technical College (Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan — KTH) and rejects the notion of a current or future “bubble”.

“The development of various countries indicates that it is very difficult to see what will happen. But if you look at mortgages in relation to disposable income then, for instance, Sweden’s is only on half of Denmark’s level,” Lind said on Wednesday.

“But there are households that are willing to take significant risks and if it doesn’t work then they’ll have to sell their home. But if there are only a few who are forced to sell, it will not bring the prices down very much,” he said.

BKN concludes in its international comparison that in several countries which have suffered dramatic house price falls, invested capital has all but disappeared, removing the scope for loan-fuelled consumption along with it.

According to BKN, Sweden’s situation is similar and the current market conditions fulfil the criteria for rapid growth in debt, arguing that this is in itself is a contributing factor for a crash in the housing market.

“Sweden has been different from other European countries and the US for example; we had a little luck in that we had our crisis in the 1990s, construction got going later and there is currently a shortage of housing in the country,” Bengt Hansson told The Local.

“But indebtedness continues to rise in the same way though,” he added.

BKN’s report details that despite the introduction of a mortgage ceiling, there remains a high loan to value ratio on new loans, unlimited interest deduction, interest-only loans — all factors argued to further reinforce house prices.

The actual amortization periods for new Swedish home loans is now about 100 years for houses and nearly 200 years for tenant-owner apartments.

“This means that we believe that we don’t need to pay off our house purchase. It is naive to believe that house prices can rise indefinitely,” Bengt Hansson concluded.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Syria: Tax Cuts on Investment Income and Food Imports

(ANSAmed) — DAMASCUS, FEBRUARY 23 — The recent Syrian executive decree 70/2011 reduced import taxes from 10% to 5%. Taxes on roasted coffee were reduced from 20% to 15%, taxes on tea (in packages weighing up to 3kg) fell from 10% to 7%, and from 5% to 3% (in packages weighing over 3kg). Taxes on rice were cut from 3% to 1% and were reduced from 40% to 20% on bananas, according to the Italian Trade Commission (ICE) office in Damascus. Another presidential decree (23/2011) lifted taxes on income from profits generated by investments into government bonds. Reductions to other taxes and expenses also went into effect in the decree. Income from government bonds has been made exempt from all income taxes, as specified by the new law number 23/2011 (the Syrian government began issuing Treasury bonds and notes last year). According to a new law, companies that provide imported products and equipment to the Syrian government can be paid in foreign currency. The recently approved law number 25/2011 authorises public sector agencies to pay their providers in foreign currencies when a contract is awarded following an international bid, and when the products and equipment with which they are supplied are imported. This regulation will not be applied automatically. In addition to the two aforementioned conditions, the possibility of receiving payment in foreign currency must be specified in the conditions of the bid.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Berlin Pressures US to Free Convicted Murderer

Berlin is pressuring US authorities to release a German national serving two life sentences on double murder charges, saying he would have been released years ago according to the German penal code.

Human rights commissioner Markus Löning said Wednesday that he’d paid a visit to Jens Söring in Virginia in hopes of having the 44-year-old former diplomat’s son returned to his home country.

Söring is serving a double life sentence after being charged with helping his American girlfriend murder her parents in 1985 when he was 18-years-old. At the time, he admitted his participation in the crime but later retracted his confession.

He still maintains his innocence.

US authorities have refused to pardon Söring or grant him a suspended sentence, which the German embassy in Washington DC has been working to change.

“Publicly we can do very little,” human rights commissioner Löning said on Wednesday after returning from his trip to the US. “But we’re trying to do everything we can in the background.”

The question of the prisoner’s guilt or innocence plays “no role,” he said.

“Söring has been sitting in prison for almost a quarter of a century. With that he has long since served his punishment according to our interpretation of the law.”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Durie: Stop Opening Churches to Muslims

Last week, Fox News posted a report that Heartsong Church in Cordova, Tenn., and Aldersgate United Methodist Church near Alexandria, Va., have made their church buildings available to Muslims to use as places of worship.

Critics of these outreach initiatives, such as Mike Huckabee, have been accused of ignorance. However, the contents of Muslim prayers and teachings about Isa, the Islamic Jesus, give reasonable grounds for churches to reject such arrangements.

A prominent element in Islamic daily prayers is the recitation of Al-Fatihah (the Opening), the first chapter of the Koran. Often described as a blessing, Al-Fatihah has a sting in its tail. After introductory praises, the final sentence of Al-Fatihah is a request for guidance “in the straight path” of Allah’s blessed ones, not the path “of those against whom You are wrathful, nor of those who are astray.”

Who are the ones who are said to be under Allah’s wrath or to have gone astray from his straight path? According to the revered commentator Ibn Kathir, Muhammad himself gave the answer: “Those who have earned the anger are the Jews, and those who are led astray are the Christians.”

Al-Fatihah is as central to Islamic devotion as the Lord’s Prayer is to Christians: It is recited at least 17 times a day as part of daily Muslim prayers. Yet according to Muhammad himself, this prayer, which is on the lips of every pious Muslim day and night, castigates Christians as misguided and Jews as objects of Allah’s wrath.

Another good reason for churches not to host Muslim worship, paradoxically, is their veneration of Isa, the Islamic Jesus.

Muslims venerate Jesus, but as a Muslim prophet. In the pages of the Koran, the disciples of the Muslim Jesus declare, “We are Muslims” (Sura 5:111). The Islamic Jesus is not the Christian Son of God, the divine suffering Savior who died on the cross for the sins of the world.

Certainly there are some similarities between Isa of the Koran and Jesus of the Gospels. The Koran calls Jesus “al-Masih” — the Messiah — and both figures are said to have been born of a virgin, to have performed miracles of healing and to have raised the dead. Yet here the similarities end. Isa of the Koran was not crucified and did not die but was raised up by Allah (Sura 4:157-158).

It is in Muhammad’s vision of the end times that the role of the Muslim Jesus comes into sharp focus. Muhammad taught that when Isa returns, he “will fight for the cause of Islam. He will break the cross, kill pigs, and abolish the poll tax. Allah will destroy all religions except Islam” (Sunan Abu Dawud 27:4310).

What does this saying mean? The cross is a symbol of Christianity. Breaking the cross means abolishing Christianity. According to Islamic law, the poll tax, or jizya, buys protection of the lives and property of Christians (and Jews). Abolishing this tax will mean that jihad will be restarted against Christians and no more protection shall be afforded to those who do not submit to Islam.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Kupelian, Sperry Unravel Muslim Bros. On Hannity

Hear why ‘non-violent’ Islamists are more dangerous to U.S. than terrorists

An expert on Islam in America issued a warning today on Sean Hannity’s nationally syndicated radio show that the Islamic unrest in Egypt, which now has spread to Libya, is threatening America and its economy.

The overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and previous ascension to power by Islamic interests in Tunisia, Lebanon and other Middle East and North African nations, now is hitting OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, according to analyst Paul Sperry, a Hoover Institution media fellow and author the best-selling books, “INFILTRATION: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington,” and “MUSLIM MAFIA: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America.”

“Libya is a real problem,” he warned. “It’s an OPEC country.”

The instability there — with masses demanding the removal of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi combined with his refusal to leave — creates worries “the oil is going to stop flowing … at a time when businesses are trying to cut costs to the bone,” he said.

“This is a real concern. This domino effect … if it hits other OPEC countries,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Lawsuit: ‘Honor Killings’ OK by Michigan Shariah

A lawsuit that challenges the official cooperation by the city of Dearborn, Mich., which has one of the largest populations of Muslims in the U.S., with Islamic interests makes a stunning allegation: that under the recognized “Shariah” law in the city, there have been “honor killing” murders that have been “covered up.”

The lawsuit was brought by the Thomas More Law Center on behalf of four Christians whose speech and other civil rights were restricted by official city action at several recent city-sponsored Arab Fest events.

The lawsuit on behalf of Acts 17 Apologetics, Nebeel Qureshi, David Wood, Paul Rezkalla, Negeen Mayel and Joshua Hogg names as defendants the city of Dearborn, Mayor John. B. O’Reilly, Police Chief Ronald Haddad and a long list of police officers in addition to American Arab Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Fay Beydoun and Norma Haidous, the special events coordinator for the American Arab chamber.

Officials in the offices of both O’Reilly and Haddad said they were unable to respond to questions about the case, which seeks a court order halting the city’s practices regarding speech and distribution of literature on public property at the city’s Arab Fest during the summers.

It also seeks compensatory and punitive damages from the defendants.

The allegation about the honor killings that have been “overlooked” in Dearborn comes on Page 61 of the 96-page complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan today.

Describing the circumstances under which police officers arrested the Christians and ordered them to spend a night in jail rather than view readily available exculpatory evidence that ultimately cleared them of the charges, the complaint notes that during the booking of the Christians at the city jail, “a sympathetic city police officer told plaintiffs Qureshi and Rezkalla that some of the police officers were ‘on their side,’ ‘agreed with what they were doing’ and ‘didn’t think they did anything wrong,’ or words to that effect.”

The comments simply were “demonstrating further that defendants retaliated against plaintiffs for their religious speech activity,” the complaint explains.

“The sympathetic police officer told plaintiffs that the security personnel hired for the Arab Festival were mostly ‘criminals and gang members,’“ the complaint explained. Then it continued:

“The sympathetic police officer told plaintiffs that there were instances in the city where ‘honor killings’ permitted by Shariah had taken place, but they were covered up,” the complaint alleges.

There were available no further details about the honor killings, which are murders committed by Muslims to protect or restore the “honor” of their families against their own family members who may have somehow created “dishonor,” such as refusing to cooperate with an arranged marriage, or marrying outside of Islam.

The civil rights complaint stems from two separate police actions at the June 2010 annual International Arab Festival.

Richard Thompson, TMLC president and chief counsel, noted the high percentage of Muslims in the Dearborn community.

“Muslims dominate the political and law enforcement process in Dearborn. It seems that police were more interested in placating the mayor and Muslims than obeying our Constitution. Shariah law makes it a crime to preach the Gospel to Muslims. This is a classic example of stealth Jihad being waged right here in America. And it should be a wake-up call for all patriotic Americans,” he said.

The first situation developed June 18 when police jailed four Christian missionaries when they witnessed Nabeel Qureshi, a Muslim convert to Christianity, peaceably discussing his Christian faith with Muslim youths.

The other three, David Wood, Paul Rezkalla, and Negeen Mayel, were arrested along with Qureshi for allegedly “breaching the peace,” and were led away in handcuffs by police while Muslim onlookers cheered and applauded…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Obama Stops Defending Law Against Gay Marriage

(AGI) Washington — The Obama administration has changed his views on gay marriage. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the White House has dropped the defence in the federal courts of the ‘Marriage Act’, the law which defines marriage as only between a man and woman and bars same-sex marriages.

President Obama believes it is ‘unconstitutional’, Holder reported.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Tulsa Police Captain Files Federal Lawsuit

TULSA — The Tulsa police captain under fire for refusing to attend an event at a local mosque despite orders from his supervisor filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday.

In documents obtained by 2NEWS, Capt. Paul Fields sent an e-mail to TPD Deputy Chief Daryl Webster, the defendant in the lawsuit, stating Webster’s requirement to send officers to a Law Enforcement Appreciation Day hosted by the Islamic Society of Tulsa “to be an unlawful order, as it is in direct conflict with [Fields’] personal religious convictions.”

Fields’ attorney Scott Wood said the federal lawsuit alleges two complaints of First Amendment violations; that Webster’s order was unlawful, and that Webster retaliated against Fields for refusing to follow the order.

Capt. Fields was reassigned Monday and now faces an internal investigation over the matter of refusing to follow an order, TPD memos show.

Wood told 2NEWS that they feel there is a gray area in the police department’s policy that needs to be defined. When they couldn’t reach a compromise with the city attorney, they filed the lawsuit.

At a news conference Tuesday, Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan said the issue fell under the matter of community policing and likening it to other events uniformed officers attend at churches.

“Our participation was very secular. This was not religious. I would never assign a police to participate in a religious service,” Chief Jordan said.

Fields is seeking $1 in nominal damages for each charge. Wood says the issue is not about money at this point.

           — Hat tip: CB2[Return to headlines]

Tulsa Police Captain in Flap Over Islamic Invitation Files Lawsuit

A Tulsa police captain who refused to require that some of his subordinates attend a Law Enforcement Appreciation Day at a Tulsa mosque filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday, claiming that his First Amendment rights have been violated.

Capt. Paul Fields also claims that Deputy Chief Daryl Webster — the sole defendant in the case at this point — retaliated against him for his “exercise of his First Amendment rights” and singled out Fields for disparate treatment.

Fields asked for $1 in nominal damages on each of his two claims.

Fields has been assigned to a different division as the department investigates the matter, records show.

He was temporarily transferred Monday afternoon from the Riverside Division to another patrol shift at the Mingo Valley Division.

The Law Enforcement Appreciation Day is scheduled to be held at the mosque of the Islamic Society of Tulsa on March 4. Police Chief Chuck Jordan has said the society scheduled the event to show its appreciation for the officers’ response to a threat against them.

In an e-mail sent by Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police Board of Directors Chairman Clay Ballenger to FOP members Monday, Ballenger said Fields’ refusal “was based on the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, departmental policy, and past practices of the Tulsa Police Department.”

Records show that Fields, 41, was hired by the department in 1995.

Memos obtained by the Tulsa World indicate that Fields believes that a directive by the department to send officers to the event is an unlawful order. Each of the department’s three patrol divisions was assigned to schedule at least six officers and three supervisors from the three different shifts to attend the event.

Fields stated that he sought the advice of legal counsel and believes that “forcing me to enter a Mosque when it is not directly related to a police call for service is a violation of my Civil Rights,” according to a memo to his supervisor dated Feb. 17.

           — Hat tip: CB2[Return to headlines]

Why Are Americans So Ill-Informed About Climate Change?

Scientists and journalists debate why Americans still resist the consensus among research organizations that humans are warming the globe

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Black Cobra Could Reach Into Finland

One of the Nordic countries’ biggest criminal gangs is threatening to arrive in Finland, according to deputy chief Tero Kuremaa from the National Bureau of Investigation. Black Cobra, founded in Denmark in 2000, has an immigrant background.

In an interview the programme A-Studio, Tero Kuremaa told YLE that the organisation’s arrival in Finland is a serious risk. He said that young people, most of them second-generation immigrants, participate in the activities of new criminal organisations.

A Black Cobra offshoot, Black Scorpions, is recruiting minors in Nordic countries. With time, underage recruits are to become full-fledged organisation members.

Although the initial steps of gang activity are visible in Finland, the process has not gone as far as in Denmark or Sweden, according to Kuremaa

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

‘British Troops Burn in Hell’: Muslim Extremists Face EDL Supporters in Ugly Scenes Outside Poppy-Burning Trial

Muslim extremists chanted ‘British troops burn in hell’ outside a court today, as two men went on trial for burning poppies on Remembrance Day.

Ugly scenes erupted outside Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court, south-east London, as Muslims gathered to support Mohammed Haque and Emdadur Choudhury, who are accused of using ‘threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour’.

Their supporters’ chants of ‘democracy, hypocrisy’ were met with jeers from members of the English Defence League who waved flags of St George and placards of poppies.

The defendants were allegedly part of a group who shouted slogans that British soldiers were rapists and murderers during a demonstration on November 11 last year.

The incident happened during a two-minute silence close to the Royal Albert Hall where the Remembrance Day service is traditionally held.

Haque, 30, of Bethnal Green, and Choudhury, 26, of Spitalfields, pleaded not guilty to the charge under the Public Order Act.

Simon Ray, prosecuting, said Haque and Choudhury were part of the Armistice Day demo by the group Muslims Against Crusades in Kensington Gore.

He said they were protesting before and throughout the two-minute silence to mark Britain’s war dead.

Shortly after the end of the silence the two men lit large pieces of red and black plastic which were designed to resemble poppies, the court heard.

Mr Ray said that both defendants had acted jointly in the burning of the poppies.

‘Muslims Against Crusades had gathered at the corner of Exhibition Road and Kensington Gore and on an opposite corner were members of the English Defence League,’ said Mr Ray.

‘The MAC protesters were carrying signs with slogans critical of Britain’s role in Afghanistan and used microphones to voice vehement criticism of the Armed Forces and those who supported them including allegations that British troops were rapists and murderers,’ he said.

‘The right of freedom of speech is very important and the decision to prosecute should not be taken lightly.

In this case the actions of these defendants went beyond reasonable protest and the exercise of freedom of speech.

‘The prosecution was brought in order to prevent public disorder and to protect the rights of British people to exercise their right to the two-minute silence.’

A grandson of a Second World War soldier said he felt ‘sick inside’ when witnessing the men’s protest, the magistrates heard.

Tony Kibble said tears of anger and rage welled in his eyes as the Muslim group shouted through the two minute’s silence.

he said: ‘Half way through, I looked up to see what was going on around and I saw a ball of fire fall to the ground. Literally, my stomach turned over.’

He continued: ‘I felt sick inside. It is something that means so much to me and to see what I believed to be a wreath of poppies fall to the ground — it is just despicable.’

Video footage of the incident was shown in court today.

In it, a leader of the MAC can be heard to say ‘the two minutes have started’ before leading a series of anti-British chants.

Around 20 men at the demonstration joined in with shouts of: ‘Burn, burn British soldiers, British soldiers burn in Hell.’

The crowd continued: ‘British soldiers — murderers, British soldiers — rapists, British soldiers — terrorists.’

The trial continues.

           — Hat tip: Feli[Return to headlines]

Cameron: Multiculturalism Speech Not Attack on Muslims

David Cameron has insisted he was not “singling out Muslims” in a recent speech on multiculturalism.

Mr Cameron’s call for an end to “state multiculturalism” sparked debate around the world, with some accusing the UK prime minister of attacking Islam.

Explaining his words to students in Qatar, he backed a “multiracial” society but not a “super tolerant” one in which people lived separate lives.

Mr Cameron, who is touring the Middle East, also spoke up for gay rights.

In a speech on the causes of terrorism and radicalisation in Munich last month, Mr Cameron blamed “state multiculturalism” for a “weakening of our collective identity” and said it encouraged different cultures to live “separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream”.

It echoed sentiments from German Chancellor Angela Merkel last October and was followed by similar comments from French President Nicolas Sarkozy last month.

But the speech prompted much comment in the UK and abroad — with some foreign commentators seeing it as an end to Britain’s tradition of racial and religious tolerance, or even a direct attack on Islam.

Mr Cameron, who is on a tour of the Middle East, was quizzed about the speech as he took questions from students at Qatar University.

‘Singling out’

One student asked him whether he was “singling out” Muslims and causing division and asked where the British “spirit of tolerance” was.

Mr Cameron said his speech had to be read in full: “What I’m attacking is not the idea of a multi-racial society. Britain has an incredibly successful multi-racial society, we have people from all over the world, people from all different religions, all different colours, all different creeds living in our country.”

He said he had been attacking “state multiculturalism, which was the doctrine that we had in our country for too long that you kept people separate” — where different immigrant groups would live together, speak their own language, go to their own schools and not integrate.

“It was that argument, that we should be ‘super tolerant’ and say everyone exists separately rather than trying to build a house together — that is the idea I was attacking.

“We should be clearer that when people come to our country, we should welcome them, we should not force people to assimilate in every single way but we should ask people to integrate, to become part of society.”

He added: “Was I singling out Muslims? No.”

He said he was making a distinction between Islam “one of the world’s great religions” which was “peacefully observed by over a billion people” and a “very politicised extreme form of Islamism” which promoted conflict between Muslims and the rest of the world.

‘Absolutely vital’

He also argued that the West had to “create societies that people want to integrate into. if we leave British Muslims outside that society they may be attracted by this political extremism”. And he said the West had to offer the Middle East the idea of an open, more democratic society.

At a press conference with the Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim, Mr Cameron also suggested holding the World Cup in Qatar could help change attitudes towards homosexuality.

Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal, will become the first Middle East country host the World Cup in 2022.

In December Fifa President Sepp Blatter provoked controversy when he suggested, apparently jokingly, that gay football fans going to the event should “refrain from sexual activity”. He later apologised for any offence.

Questioned about the issue on his visit to Qatar, Mr Cameron said: “Football is for everybody — no one should be excluded on the basis of their race or religion or sexuality.

“It is absolutely vital that is the case. I am sure that will be the case when the World Cup comes here.”

He said football could be “a great engine for social change and a change of attitudes” and had helped drive racism out of the stands in the UK.

“Just as that has happened, so too, we need to make sure that there is no place for homophobia in football.”

The Qatari PM said that he was glad the question had been directed at Mr Cameron as that was “less embarrassing to me”.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Europe’s Stuttering Timidity in Denouncing the Persecution of Christians

After nearly three weeks, finally a European text condemns the violations of religious freedom of Christians. The statement suffers from “excessive” balance and distance. The EU’s inability to understand what is happening in North Africa and the Middle East is a result of its ignoring its Christian roots. Without a sense of identity the ability to read the situation or offer a way forward. The teaching of Benedict XVI.

Rome (AsiaNews) — After more than three weeks of debate, the EU has managed to produce a text that explicitly mentions Christians as victims of persecution and the object of violent attacks. An earlier text had been prepared in January, after the terrorist attack on the Church in Baghdad and the massacre at the Church in Alexandria, but was it rejected because of the lack of references to Christians, since the EU preferred to use generic term “religious minorities”.

The new text approved yesterday explicitly mentions “Christians and their places of worship” victims of “acts of religious intolerance and discrimination,” but now hastens to include among the victims of such acts “Muslim pilgrims and other religious communities” as well .

The Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, one of the promoters of the text, had condemned the draft as a sign of ‘excessive secularism “present in the EU, but expressed satisfaction with the text adopted yesterday. Moreover, recalling that the European Constitution does not mention the Christian roots among the historic foundations of Europe, yesterday’s statement really is a gigantic departure.

Yet even this text does not satisfy in full. It seeks to balance the anti-Christian violence with those against other religious communities, in an “excess” of balance and equidistance, not taking into account that at least 70% of persecution in today’s world is carried out against Christians. Yet these impressive figures are the result of statistics (from the World Christian Encyclopedia to the Pew Research Centre) and not partisan reports, so much so that Pope Benedict XVI used the word “Christianophobia” for the first time in a papal speech (see the speech Roman Curia on 20 December 2010. See: 12/20/2010 Pope: Future of the World Depends upon Rediscovery “of Truth and Goodness” and 22/12/2010 Benedict XVI and the Synod: dialogue and forgiveness in the face of violence).

Above all, the text approved by the EU does not go beyond some general exhortation on the defense of religious freedom as a universal human right that must be defended everywhere and for all. “

In stark contrast to the EU’s timid text, Benedict XVI’s solid address to the diplomatic corps (10/01/2011 Pope: Religious freedom attacked by terrorism and marginalisation). Defending religious freedom for all religious traditions, the Pope addressed the governments demanding security and the repeal of unjust laws (such as the blasphemy law); room for free education; guarantees that the contribution of religious communities to society will be welcomed etc. …

Europe’s stuttering timidity on religious freedom is underscored by the continents approximation and inanity faced with the riots taking place in North Africa and the Middle East. As an epochal change unfolds before our very eyes — with non-violent demands for justice, equality and democracy — the EU is ineptly concealing its remorse, calling for a “transition” while it secretly sheds tears over all the fabulous economic contracts drawn up with fallen dictators, null and void or hanging in the balance.

It is said that the world and Europe have been taken by surprise by the riots in Tunisia, Egypt, etc. .. We think that this blindness is due to the fact that in all these years, the sole motivation for our Europe’s relationship with these countries was its own its narrow economic interests and thus “stability”, not a shared communication of values, attentiveness to social questions, dialogue between cultures and religions. In practice, Europe’s identity was its wallet: and little more.

Benedict XVI’s appeal during his papal journeys to France, the Czech Republic, Malta, the United Kingdom now echoes urgently in our ears: if Europe does not rediscover its Christian roots, it will remain silent in the concert of nations, incapable of identity and true friendships with the rest of the world.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Italy: Anti-Berlusconi Slogans Attached to Trevi Fountain

Plan to reform Constitutional Court blasted

(ANSA) — Rome, February 22 — The leader of a movement demanding change in Italian politics protested against Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s pledge to reform the Constitutional Court by attaching slogans to Rome’s Trevi Fountain Tuesday.

Italy’s highest court has been accused of bias after it struck down a judicial shield protecting Berlusconi from trials last month, the third such decision it has made in recent years.

That ruling re-activated three corruption trials involving the premier, who has since been indicted for allegedly using an underage prostitute for a fourth trial set to start in April.

At the weekend the premier, who denies any wrongdoing and argues he is the victim of politically motivated magistrates seeking to oust him, said he would reform the court so a majority of two-thirds were needed to scupper a law.

This was necessary, he said, because “if leftist magistrates don’t like a law they take it to the Constitutional Court which abolishes it even if the law is right as the majority of its justices are leftwingers”.

The plan drew fire from opposition parties and from the Popolo Viola (Purple People), a movement of people who are disaffected with mainstream Italian politics and want to change it.

Popolo Viola leader Gianfranco Mascia expressed his hostility by attaching posters to the famous monument with slogans such as “Why do you want to touch our Constitution?” and “You insult the institution, we choose the Constitution” before being stopped by municipal police.

The Constitutional Court has denied being biased.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Corruption ‘Pathological’ Says Court

Audit Court official criticises planned wiretap curb

(ANSA) — Rome, February 22 — Corruption in Italy is “pathologoical”, Italy’s highest administrative court said Monday as it came out against a planned government wiretap bill that has previously been described as a ‘gag’ law.

Graft and fraud, especially on taxes and to get European Union funds, are “pathologies” which “continue to afflict public administration,” said the prosecutor-general at the Audit Court, Mario Ristuccia.

The latest data “do not allow for optimism”, he said, citing a 30% rise in corruption cases from 2009 to 2010.

On the wiretap bill, which Premier Silvio Berlusconi has resurrected as essential to protect privacy from violations and alleged trial by the media such as he has suffered over an upcoming trial for allegedly using an underage prostitute, Ristuccia echoed the concerns of prosecutors and the centre-left opposition. The bill does not appear “directed at a full-blown fight against corruption,” he claimed.

As prosecutors have repeatedly stressed before him, Ristuccia said wiretaps were “one of the most important investigative tools” against corruption. The government has underscored that major crimes such as terrorism, mafia and wide-scale corruption would not be affected by a wiretap curb but critics have pointed out that surveillance of lesser crimes often leads to probes on the most serious ones.

As well as the so-called ‘Ruby’ trial, from the stage name of the teen Moroccan runaway and belly dancer Berlusconi is alleged to have paid for sex and pressured police to let go on an unrelated allegation, Berlusconi shortly faces the resumption of three bribery and tax-fraud trials in Milan.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: ENI Suspends Delivery of Gas From Libya Via Greensteam Pipeline

Rome, 22 Feb. (AKI) — Italian energy giant Eni on Tuesday suspended some of its Libyan production, including the Greenstream pipeline, amid continuing unrest in the North African country. The pipeline supplies abut 10 percent of Italy’s natural gas needs.

The Rome-based company doesn’t know how long the Libyan activities will be suspended, spokesman Gianni Di Giovanni told broadcaster SkyTG24.

But he said Eni could meet the gas needs of its clients for “many months” and was “moderately relaxed” about the situation.

“There’s gas out there and there’s plenty,” said Di Giovanni.

The Greenstream pipeline has an annual transport capacity of 8 billion cubic metres and links Italy to Libya.

Eni did not state which other facilities in Libya had been suspended, but said security at these site has been stepped up.

“None of the plants for production and treatment of hydrocarbons in the country has suffered any damage,” it added.

Eni puts out 244,000 barrels of gas and oil equivalent in Libya or about 14 percent of its total production.

Eni said the withdrawal of most of its expatriate employees from Libya would be completed within “the next hours”.

“Thirty-four employees will remain in Libya, some in the operating plants and others in Tripoli,” it added.

Eni’s shares dropped the most in 19 months on Monday as the violent unrest worsened across Libya.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Italy: Revenue Board: Corruption, Fraud Present in Public Admin.

(AGI) Rome — According to the State Revenue Board, corruption and fraud are still pathologies that afflict public administration. The allarm was launched by the Revenue Board’s general prosecutor, Mario Ristuccia, in his speech at the innaugural ceremony for the judicial year. He said, “To the numerous cases of ignored laws and criteria for good administration caused by a lack of minimum levels of diligence which must oversee the use of public resources, one can add the pathologies made up of criminal phenomena which continue to afflict public administration. These are corruption and fraud, mostly regarding aid materials and national and EU taxes.” ..

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Italy: Libya Unrest May Unleash Wave of ‘350,000’ Migrants

(AKI) — The violent unrest in Libya may spark a wave of up to 350,000 immigrants toward European shores, warned Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini, who asked the European Union for help.

“We ask that Europe do its duty,” he said during a Wednesday address to parliament in Rome. We want Europe to do more managing the flow of migrants because countries cannot be left alone.”

Italy in May 2009 agreed to begin controversial joint patrols with Libya, turning back thousands of illegal immigrants aboard boats in the Mediterranean.

Libyan leader Muammer Gaddafi hinted that he may unilaterally scrap cooperation, warning that he would allow thousands of migrants to pass through his country on the way to Europe if the EU sided with opponents of his embattled rule.

Italy says more than 5,000 Tunisians have arrived by boat to its shores following the fall of that country’s ruler in January amid anti-government protests. Italy has asked the EU for 100 million euros to help bring the situation under control.

An Italian fishing boat rescued 38 Tunisian migrants early on Wednesday in rough seas off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa near Sicily.

Frattini dismissed Libya’s official number of 300 dead during a week of protests, putting the death toll at 1,000 — the same figure used by reports citing eye-witnesses in the north African country.

“We don’t have exact numbers but the figure of 1,000 is likely,” he said.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Italy: Government: FLI: Inquiry Committee on Alleged MP Corruption

(AGI) Rome — “In accord with our Group, I intend to present a bill to establish an inquiry committee. The aim is to shed light on corruption allegations among MPs, distorsive phenomena on the ordinary alignments in the two Houses of Parliament and on Deputies and Senators changing position due to money handouts or other economic benefits. The Parliament can no longer remain impassive in the face of these facts that are destroying all the credibility of our institutions and the confidence of Italian citizens”. The announcement was made by Carmelo Briguglio, a Deputy of Futuro e Liberta’.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Journalist in France Convicted for Anti-Muslim Hate Speech

We’ve heard a lot about Geert Wilders, the Dutch parliamentarian whose warnings about Muslim influence in his nation place him in the crosshairs of the powers-that-be. But while the tow-headed modern-day Templar has thus far dodged the hangman on Truth-speech charges, another intrepid defender of Western civilization has not been so lucky. And we haven’t heard much about him.

He is French journalist Eric Zemmour, and he was just convicted this week of “inciting racism.” Writes The New American’s R. Cort Kirkwood:

Zemmour’s “controversial” remarks included his observation that most drug dealers in France were black or Arab, and that employers “have the right” to deny employment to those two groups of people.

Zemmour’s criminal speech occurred on a popular talk show during a discussion of why French police seem to stop minorities more than whites. Said Zemmour: “But why are they stopped 17 times? Why? Because most dealers are blacks and Arabs. That’s a fact.”

So Zemmour wound up in the French dock, and must now pay $14,000 to five groups that sued him for racism.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Libya: Al Arabiya Reports 10,000 Dead

(ANSAmed)- ROME — There are at least 10,000 dead and 50,000 wounded in Libya, according to reports by Al Arabiya on Twitter quoting a member of the International Criminal Court. The death toll was reportd by the Libyan member of the ICC, Sayed al Shanuka, who was interviewed from Paris. The official figures provided by the Libyan government yesterday indicated 300 dead, while this morning Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini stated that he believed more in the death of “more than 1,000 innocents”.

After last night’s speech on television by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who stated that “I will resist until my death”, tension emerged today in Libya while foreigners flee and power supplies to Europe are being shut down. The government still controls Tripoli, but has now lost Cyrenaica. This morning Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini mentioned “civil war” between “death units and squads” and accused Gaddafi of “horrible bloodshed”, asking him to stop. Even the Italian government, which the opposition accused of not having spoken about Gaddafi’s repression, is now attacking the Libyan leader.

Frattini added that, in its relations with Libya, in the past Italy “did what it needed to do”, but “there is a limit and in light of what is happening we cannot but make our voice heard”.

MALTA SOURCES, AISHA GADDAFI ON REJECTED AIRCRAFT — Aisha Gheddafi, daughter of the Libyan leader, was among the 14 people on board a Libyan airplane that was prevented from landing in Malta today. The report was made by sources close to the Maltese government.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: OM Permits Calling Duisenberg Anti-Semitic

AMSTERDAM, 24/02/11 — The Public Prosecutor’s Office (OM) will not launch proceedings against various media and journalists for describing Gretta Duisenberg as an anti-Semite.

Duisenberg is the widow of former European Central Bank President Wim Duisenberg. She is a well-known Palestinian activist and chairs the extreme left organisation Stop the Occupation. Journalist Rutger Castricum of public broadcaster Powned and columnist Afshin Ellian of Elsevier magazine have called her an anti-Semite.

Duisenberg entered an indictment in November against Elsevier, Ellian, Castricum and PowNed for libel and defamation. The OM announced yesterday it is not prosecuting any of them. She was called an anti-Semite in a public debate in which she herself does not shy away either from provocative statements, according to the OM.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Wilders Criticises VVD, CDA Election Campaign

The CDA and VVD ruling parties should be more high profile in the ongoing provincial election campaign, Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-Islam PVV, said on Wednesday.

The elections take place on March 2 and opinion polls show that the minority coalition and alliance partner PVV will not win a majority of seats in the senate, or upper house of parliament.

The results of the provincial vote is used to determine the make-up of the upper house.

Wilders said the campaign could do with ‘a shot of pepper’.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Spain: 13 Injured After Man Launches Stabbing Attack in Ibiza

A knife-wielding madman went on the rampage in a popular Spanish tourist resort today stabbing at least ten people.

The 42-year-old was arrested after going berserk in San Antonio, on the holiday island of Ibiza.

The Moroccan man sparked panic in the streets of the seaside town after stabbing wildly at strangers with a large knife or machete at lunchtime.

Knife rampage: Thirteen people were wounded, six of them seriously, when a man went on a stabbing frenzy in San Antonio, Ibiza

At least two people were seriously injured in the attack, one of them stabbed in the neck, while several others were treated by paramedics or taken to hospitals.

Police would not immediately reveal the nationalities of the victims.


Two armed officers from the Civil Guard police force overpowered the suspect, who was also carrying a metal bar.

Local reports said he had a police record for wounding and tried to stab himself in the neck as he was arrested.

The drama began in the Suma supermarket when workers accused him of shoplifting.

He is said to have stabbed a number of workers before running out of the store.

He then attacked more people in an internet cafe and a hairdressers.

Thousands of British holidaymakers pack the resort of San Antonio during the summer months.

But it us usually relatively quiet with very few visitors during the off-season.

It was not clear if any Brits or Irish had been injured.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Temperatures Due for Sharp Fall Throughout Italy

(AGI) Rome — According to weather experts at CNR, Italy will suffer a sudden cold snap due to a Siberian weather front.

Temperatures are expected to fall between 6 and 7 degrees below seasonal averages, but according to the research institute “the cold will be mostly felt during the early hours of the morning.” The Siberian front has, thus far, mostly affected the Balkans and is now predicted to shift south-west towards Italy.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

UK: European Human Rights: Rent Arrests Tenant Cannot be Evicted Rules Judge

Evicing a woman from her council home for failing to pay rent would breach her human rights, judges ruled yesterday.

Town Hall chiefs wanted to evict Rebecca Powell, who receives thousands of pounds in benefits, after she ran up more than £3,500 in arrears on the accommodation she was given because she was homeless.

But the Supreme Court said that — under the controversial European Convention on Human Rights — this would be a breach of the right to ‘respect for a person’s home’.

Council leaders and the Government had fought the case and fear it may now be harder to evict thousands of council tenants who fall into arrears.

Legal experts said there was an increasing ‘trend’ for tenants — including ‘neighbours from hell’ — to use human rights law to thwart eviction.

Passing yesterday’s judgment, Lord Hope made it clear the ruling had its origins in Strasbourg. He said the ‘time had come to accept and apply the jurisprudence of the European court’.

The ruling brought fresh demands for reform of Labour’s Human Rights Act, which enshrines the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law, and of the unelected Strasbourg court.

It comes in the wake of cases saying that prisoners must be entitled to vote and that paedophiles can apply to be taken off the Sex Offender Register.

Last night Tory MP Philip Davies said: ‘It seems to me that the courts always find in favour of the human rights of people who are doing something wrong. We have got to change that balance, it is getting completely out of hand.

‘What about the human rights of the landlord to get their rent, what about the human rights of the taxpayer?’

Miss Powell, now 23, was given a home in Cranford, West London, by Hounslow Council in April 2007. By June the following year Miss Powell, who lives with her partner and four children, owed the council more than £3,500.

She was entitled to around £15,000 a year in housing benefit which could have covered the payments, but had not applied for it properly.

Eviction proceedings began but were halted when Miss Powell appealed under the Human Rights Act. At one stage the council moved the family out in order to renovate the home at taxpayers’ expense, then moved them back in.

Yesterday, Lord Hope and Lord Phillips ruled that the council had not considered whether it was ‘proportionate’ to evict Miss Powell and ordered that the eviction be quashed.

Hounslow Council, anticipating defeat, has offered her ‘suitable alternative accommodation’ and she has never been without a home.

Judges will have to consider the ruling when looking at similar cases involving people who would otherwise be homeless.

Miss Powell has agreed to clear her arrears of £3,536.39 at £5 per week, or sooner if she can.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Oman Gift to Promote Religious Understanding

A major collaboration between the University of Cambridge and the Sultanate of Oman which aims to improve public understanding of the Abrahamic religions Judaism, Islam and Christianity was marked at a signing ceremony yesterday (Weds).

Her Excellency Dr Rawya Saud Al-Busaidi, the Omani Minister of Higher Education (pictured left), led a distinguished Omani delegation to meet the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz (pictured right) and other senior members of the University.

They signed and sealed agreements in both Arabic and English to endow permanently, through a generous benefaction from the Government of the Sultanate of Oman, a new professorship that has been established by the University. The “Sultan Qaboos Professor of Abrahamic Faiths and Shared Values” will be a member of the Faculty of Divinity and will become the Academic Director of the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme (CIP).

CIP undertakes high-level research and creative public education about and between religions, with a focus on the Abrahamic faiths. The world has recently witnessed the re-emergence of religion as a key force in the public sphere. The need for such a programme, fostering inter-faith understanding, is rapidly evolving into a global imperative for both religious and secular society.

The ten-strong Omani delegation included His Highness Sayyid Taimur Al Said and the Vice-Chancellor of Sultan Qaboos University, His Excellency Dr Ali Al Bimani.

The Vice-Chancellor thanked Dr Rawya for making time to come to Cambridge for this signing, for her exceptional vision for higher education and for forging this important link with the University of Cambridge which he acknowledged as a most significant development for both Cambridge University and for the Faculty of Divinity through its Inter-faith Programme.

Professor David Ford, the University’s Regius Professor of Divinity, said: “We are deeply grateful to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin-Said for this generous and visionary benefaction. The Sultanate of Oman is esteemed for its tradition of scholarship and learning, and renowned for its commitment to policies of peace and reconciliation between the Islamic world and other nations.

“The Cambridge Inter-faith Programme is at an exciting point in its development. In a world situation where many view religious difference as a source of antagonism and conflict, it is a bold and enduring response promoting religious understanding.”

In July this year, thanks to additional support by the Sultanate, CIP will pilot a Summer School for 20 young Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders on the subject of inter-faith encounters past and present

There are already strong links between the University of Cambridge and Oman with the endowment in 2006 of the His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Professor of Modern Arabic, in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (currently held by Professor Yasir Suleiman). A further gift from the Sultanate has enriched the development of Oriental Studies at Pembroke College, Cambridge.

Cambridge has a significant relationship with Oman’s leading University, Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) with student exchange programmes and academic relationships in many fields including Arabic language, Language Centre expertise, Mathematics and Earth Sciences.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Poppy-Burning Demo ‘Left Me Sick’

The grandson of a Second World War soldier felt “sick inside” as Muslim extremists burned replica poppies on the anniversary of Armistice Day in west London, a court has heard.

Tony Kibble said tears of anger and rage welled in his eyes as members of Muslims Against Crusades chanted “British soldiers burn in hell” while he attempted to mark a two minute silence. At Belmarsh Magistrates Court — sitting at Woolwich Crown Court — on Wednesday, two members of the Islamist group stood trial over alleged public order offences.

Mohammad Haque, 30, and Emdadur Choudhury, 26, are accused of jointly carrying out the burning of three oversized plastic poppies in a way that was likely to cause “harassment, harm or distress” to those who witnessed it.

Haque, of Mace Street, Bethnal Green, east London, and Choudhury of Hunton Street, Spitalfields, east London, both plead not guilty to one count each under section five of the Public Order Act. The alleged offence took place on November 11 as rival demonstrations took place at Kensington Gore. During the day, members of the English Defence League (EDL) exchanged angry outbursts with representatives of Muslims Against Crusades (MAC).

Giving evidence on Wednesday, Mr Kibble said: “They (The MAC) carried on shouting throughout the two minute silence. Half way through, I looked up to see what was going on around and I saw a ball of fire fall to the ground. Literally, my stomach turned over.”

He continued: “I felt sick inside. It is something that means so much to me and to see what I believed to be a wreath of poppies fall to the ground — it is just despicable.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: SAS Troops ‘To be Deployed on the Streets’ To Prevent Terrorist Attacks

SAS troops could be deployed on the streets alongside police as fears grow of a Mumbai-style terror attack on Britain, it emerged today.

Plans are reportedly being considered to plant soldiers in counter-terrorism surveillance teams across Britain.

The plans could see the SAS base moved from Credenhill in Herefordshire to a London barracks to slash the unit’s response time.

Details of the plans emerged in The Times today amid growing security fears surround the Royal Wedding later this year and the Olympics in 2012.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Teenager Battered for Refusing Arranged Marriage After Father Sold Her as £10,000 Bride

A brave teenager has spoken for the first time of the harrowing ordeal of being beaten up in an arranged marriage after her father tried to sell her for £10,000.

The 15-year-old girl was tricked into flying to Pakistan then forced to marry a 31-year-old man so he could get a British passport.

She has described how she feared she would died after being hit, scarred with broken glass and locked up for reusing to get married.

Her harrowing story has been revealed as part of BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat investigation into forced marriages.

The girl, who would not be named, said: ‘It was just about the money. He was literally selling me and my nationality so I could bring the person back.

‘In pounds, it would have been about £10,000.

‘He whacked me across the face, then I started rebelling more, saying “no”.

Then he got a glass and scarred my arms. He had somebody holding me from behind and he got a glass and was cutting very deep.

‘I thought he might kill me. I thought I was going to die.’

The beatings started when the young girl refused to get married. She was then locked up without food or water.

Fortunately she summoned her strength and escaped to the British High Commission in Pakistan. She then returned home and was reunited with her worried mother.

Figures obtained by Newsbeat show that her ordeal is one of many suffered by an estimated 1,735 potential forced marriages involving British citizens in 2010.

It is believed that a third of the girls in arranged marriages are under 18. Newsbeat claims that the youngest was just 13.

Campaigners against forced marriages have now called for more awareness of the problem which is largely confined to Asian communities.

Jeremy Browne, the minister in joint charge of the forced marriage unit, said: ‘We think it’s a genuine priority, we want to help people.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Toddler Facing Blindness From a Birthmark is Refused Laser Treatment to Save Her Eyesight by Cost-Cutting NHS Trust

A toddler faces a lifetime of blindness and disfigurement after her NHS Trust refused to fund life-changing laser surgery which would save her sight.

Zosia Knight was born with a small port wine stain birthmark beneath her right eye that has since spread across her face and now threatens her eyesight.

Two specialist dermatologists have warned that if left untreated the mark will spread and cause the two-year-old to become blind in one eye.

Doctors have recommended several courses of laser surgery to be performed under general anaesthetic over two years, which would cost £12,000 to carry out privately.

But NHS West Sussex has refused to fund the treatment and turned down mother Carole Knight’s emotional appeal to save her daughter from a lifetime of disability.

Her cause has been backed by Crawley MP Henry Smith and two expert consultant dermatologists but nevertheless NHS chiefs have been steadfast in their refusal to pay for the treatment.

It is one of the only care trusts in the country not to fund the treatment automatically.


Crawley MP Henry Smith said: ‘I am very disappointed that the appeal was refused. The impact of a spreading birthmark on the well-being of a child is huge.

This is another example of what happens when managers rather than clinicians make decisions about patients’ care.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Watchdog Says Electric Cars ‘Are as Dirty as Diesel’

Electric cars are a lot more expensive to buy — though they are generally cheaper to run as they plug in for their power from the domestic mains, say experts at Which?

The amount of carbon dioxide — the so-called ‘greenhouse gas’ blamed by scientists for global warming — created to generate the electricity powering an electric car, can be just as great as that created by the internal combustion engine, they say.

The main difference is that while a conventional car’s emissions come out of the vehicle’s exhaust pipe, those created by an electric car are generated at the power station which supplies the electricity.

The findings come as the first ever electric car to pass the European crash test was announced — the Mitsubishi i-MiEVsuper-mini — getting four stars out of a maximum five.

Experts at Which? compared the carbon dioxide created by charging electric cars with that emitted by the most efficient diesel models and concluded:’Sometimes there’s not a great deal of difference.’

And the gap is narrowing as ‘conventional’ cars up their game to cut emissions.

The Which? report noted:’The common manufacturer claim that electric cars produce ‘zero emissions’ ignores the fact that most drivers use a conventional electricity supply to charge them, which has a carbon cost from burning fossil fuels. ‘


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Kosovo: Key Witness at Ex-Premier’s Trial Refuses to Testify Before UN Tribunal

The Hague, 23 Feb. (AKI) — A key witness at former Kosovo prime minister and commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army Ramus Haradinaj’s trial has refused to testify before the United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, according to prosecutors.

Haradinaj and two of his aides were accused by the tribunal of crimes against Serb civilians during Kosovo 1998/99 war against Serbian rule. Haradinaj was acquitted in April 2008 owing to a lack of evidence because ten potential witnesses were killed or died mysterious deaths and two refused to testify.

The tribunal’s appeals panel ordered a retrial in July last year and Haradinaj was ordered to return to the Hague detention cell.

The prosecutors have called a key witness, Sefcet Kabasi, to testify in the retrial. But Kabasi, who now lives in the United States and has US citizenship has refused, prosecutor Paul Rogers said.

“He says that at this moment he doesn’t want to testify,” Rogers told the court.

Kabasi and another potential witness were guards in a detention camp near Decane in western Kosovo, under Haradinaj’s command, where about 60 Serbs and non-loyal Albanians were killed.

Since one of the two witnesses refused to testify, “half of the reasons for retrial have disappeared,” Haradinaj’s lawyer Ben Emmerson told the court on Wednesday. He demanded that the trial should start at the latest in May.

“Any postponements are unjustified while the indictees stay in detention,” Emmerson said.

Kabasi appeared before the tribunal in 2007, but after being sworn in he refused to testify and left for the US. He was later indicted for contempt of court, but the trial never took place.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Serbia: Serb Ultranationalist Seselj Denies Contempt of UN Court

The Hague, 22 Feb. (AKI) — Serbian ultranationalist leader Vojislav Seselj on Tuesday denied charges of contempt of court for revealing the names of protected witnesses, accusing prosecutors of the United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia of violating his human rights and freedom.

Seselj, the leader of the nationalist Serbian Radical Party, has been indicted for crimes allegedly committed by volunteers recruited by his party. He willingly submitted himself to the tribunal eight years ago and denied the charges.

While the main trial is drawing to a close, Seselj was sentenced in 2009 to 15 months in jail for contempt of court and for revealing names of protected witnesses. He was indicted for contempt of court again in February last year.

“I have never jeopardised witnesses and no one has missed even one hair,” Seselj told the court. He said he revealed in his books only the names of 20 prosecution witnesses who later decided to testify in his favour.

“This trial (for contempt of court) is taking place only because the Hague prosecutors have been unsuccessfully trying for the past eight years to establish a link between me and war crimes,” Seselj said.

“The prosecutors have met a fiasco and now want to fill in the time I have spent in jail with verdicts for contempt of court,” he said. He accused the tribunal of working on orders of the United States and pro-European Serbian government.

Seselj said the tribunal had orders not to set him free until next parliamentary elections in Serbia, scheduled for next year, because he would upset the plans of the pro-European government “This tribunal will be remembered for violating rights and freedom of men,” he said.

Presenting his evidence, prosecutor Bruce MacFarlane said that “the indictee knew that he shouldn’t publish confidential information but nevertheless did so”.

After prosecutors present their case, the trial will be interrupted because Seselj said the tribunal hasn’t provided expenses for the witnesses he wants to call.

“I have proven that I’m ready for sacrifice, I’m indestructible and will remain so,” Seselj concluded.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Libya: NGO Network Euromed: EU Must Stop Massacre

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 22 — The Euro-Mediterranean network of non-governmental organisations for human rights (EMHRN) has called on the European Union and its member states to use “all of their diplomatic power to stop the killing of civilians and ensure the respect of freedom of movement in Libya”.

EMHRN says that it is “profoundly shocked by this explosion of violence, defined by eyewitnesses as a ‘massacre’“.

The NGOs are therefore appealing to the Libyan authorities “not to use disproportionate force against protesters on their way to Tripoli, and not to use foreigners for the repression of unarmed demonstrators”.

“The European Union and its member states must not give in to pressure from the Libyan regime, which has threatened to cease all forms of cooperation with the EU in tackling illegal immigration if Europe does not stop encouraging the spread of democracy in the region,” the statement adds.

“Instead, the EU and its member states should appeal for the respect of human dignity and human rights, including freedom of association, of movement and of expression, which constitute the European Union’s core values”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: EU: 18.5 Mln for Health and Immigration Projects

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 23 — The European Union has supplied Libya with support totalling about 18.5 million in funding for cooperation projects, mainly as concerns immigration and healthcare assistance for the fight against AIDS. This was seen in the initial figures released by the Commission.

Meanwhile, as concerns bilateral relations, yesterday the EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton announced the suspension of talks for a framework cooperation accord, which had begun in 2008. Pilot project initiatives have meanwhile got underway. According to the initial figures, the EU Commission has financed a project in Libya with about 100 million euros carried out by the Italian Interior Ministry in collaboration with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which began in 2010. Its objectives are to increase the Libyan authorities capacities to intercept irregular immigrants in the desert and treat them in line with international standards. Moreover, in 2007-2010, the European Commission supplied 8.5 million euros for the so-called “HIV Action Plan for Benghazi” with the aim of financing technical and medical assistance for the Benghazi Immunological and Infectious Diseases Centre, helping the social reintegration of patients and their families and assisting Libyan authorities in the drawing of a national anti-AIDS plan. On the subject of bilateral accords, the European Union has currently suspended the talks which got underway in 2008 to finance a framework cooperation and partnership accord with Libya that is to cover a number of areas, from political dialogue to immigration and energy. Laying the foundations of these talks was a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2007 between Tripoli and Brussels. In view of a possible conclusion of the framework agreement, last year the European Commission provided for a financial package worth 60 million euros, which has not yet been implemented. These funds were to have covered a cooperation programme for 2011-2013, with 30 million euros for immigration, 10 million euros for healthcare, 1o million euros for trade integration and the development of SMEs and 10 million for support of the current framework agreement. On the other hand, as part of an “agenda for cooperation on immigration” signed in Tripoli in October by the Neighborhood and Internal Affairs commissioners Stefan Fule and Cecilia Malmstrom, a series of initiatives have been identified for which further funds were provided to a maximum of 20 million euros.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: State of Emergency Lifted, it Was in Force Since 1993

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 23 — The Algerian government has approved the lifting of the state of emergency in force in the country for the past 19 years, reported the Algerian state press agency APS, noting that the measure was about to come into force. The ordinance in question “concerns the abrogation of the legislative decree of February 6 1993 on the extension of the state of emergency brought in by a presidential decree on February 9 1992”.

The decree dates back to about a month after the annulment of the elections which were won in their first round by the Islamic Salvation Front, and which led to the breaking out of violence in the country by armed Islamist groups. The revocation “soon to be brought in” of the state of emergency was announced by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika at the beginning of February

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Algeria: Opposition Divided, No to Political Parties

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 23 — The National Coordination for Democracy and Change (CNDC), which promoted the latest protests in Algiers and across the country, has split.

After a meeting yesterday in Algiers, the Collective split into two: on one side the autonomous unions, the Algerian Human Rights League and other associations against the presence of political parties, and on the other the Culture and Democracy Group (RCD), as well as other associations, such as the Observatory for Violence against Women. The latter group, reports a statement, has announced another protest in Algiers on Saturday and has said it is prepared to demonstrate every week. At the centre of the polemics which led to the division of the CNCD is the role of the political parties within the collective, accused of wanting to manipulate and side step the protests. The risk, according to some newspapers, is that the most radical Islamic movements may begin working alongside the parties.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Algeria: Students’ Requests Met After Protests

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 23 — The requests of the students who took to the streets in protests over the past few days in a number of Algerian cities have been met. The decree of December 13 2010 which was opposed by the students “ was abrogated” yesterday by the Council of Ministers as part of numerous measures, including the lifting of the state of emergency, adopted to halt the wave of protests which have been seen in the country since the beginning of January. The regulation had modified the qualifications required for access to specific jobs, leading to a devaluation — according to the students — of some diplomas. A demonstration in Algiers was put down with violent means on Monday and a number of youths were injured. The National Security Directorate General (DGSN) has announced that an inquiry would be set in motion to identify those responsible for the violence against students on Monday. “No one gave the order to charge,” according to a DGSN statement released by the press, “those who committed these serious violations will be punished.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Berlusconi to Gaddafi, Protesters Not Given Italian Rockets

(AGI) Rome — Prime Minister Berlusconi called Muammar al-Gaddafi to deny that Italy had furnished Libyan protesters with rockets. The telephone conversation occurred a mere twenty minutes after the Libyan leader gave a speech on television.

Berlusconi wished to discuss Gaddafi’s own statement regarding Italian rockets being used by youths protesting in Bengasi, which Italy’s PM curtly denied.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Berlusconi: ‘Think About What Regime Change Will Bring’

Libya faces fundamentalist risk, says Berlusconi

(ANSA) — Rome, February 23 — Italy condemns the bloodshed in Libya but stresses the need to think about what will come after regimes which have major energy accords with the West, Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said Wednesday after conferring with European and US leaders. Referring to other North African countries as well as Libya, Berlusconi said: “What is important is that there should be no violence, but we should also be careful about what will happen after changes to regimes we deal with and which are important for us for energy supplies”.

The Italian premier also warned about the possibility of Islamic fundamentalism, marked by “anti-Western dogmatism”, taking over the Libya rebellion after the country’s eastern coastal region of Cyrenaica proclaimed an ‘Islamic emirate’.

But Berlusconi noted “with pleasure” that the uprisings in North Africa had largely been led by young people whose “democratic wind” was borne by the Internet.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, who spoke of “a civil war” featuring death squads and gangs, said 1,000 people had been killed by Gaddafi’s troops, planes and mercenaries and denied reports that Italy had supplied rebels with rocket-propelled grenades.

There were reports of mass graves in Tripoli, which has taken the brunt of Gaddafi’s crackdown.

The foreign minister urged the European Union to adopt a common position on a feared exodus of some 300,000 migrants.

The EU said members could decide to take asylum seekers in “on a voluntary basis”. On Wednesday interior ministers from the EU’s Mediterranean countries will meet in Rome on the immigration emergency. On the energy front, Industry Minister Paolo Romani said Italy could “sleep peacefully” even in a worst-case scenario.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Bloodshed in Libya: The Impotence of the West

Condemnation of the violence in Libya has been universal in Western capitals. But dictator Moammar Gadhafi shows no signs of calling a halt to the brutal repression of protests in the country. The West simply has no leverage in Libya.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Chinese Workers Set Out on Long March Through Libyan Desert to Reach Tripoli

Workers and employees of a Chinese construction company were attacked in the city of Ajdabiyah by armed men who took away all computers and luggage, and are trying to walk to the capital to return home. Looting and attacks on South Korean and Bangladeshi labourers.

Tripoli (AsiaNews / Agencies) — More than a thousand workers of a Chinese construction company, attacked and looted by armed men, are on a march of hundreds of miles across the desert to reach the airport in Tripoli, in an attempt to leave for Beijing. Huafeng Company’s compound was raided on Feb. 20 in the eastern city of Ajdabiyah, 863 km from the capital.

The looters threatened staff with weapons, and took away all they including baggage and computers. No one was hurt in the attack. The workers, clutching their passports and carrying food, decided to walk towards Tripoli, “several hundred kilometres” away hoping to catch the first flight to China.

Yesterday, Beijing invited businessmen to postpone their trips to Libya and businesses operating in the country to take every precaution because of the fighting that has been raging for days. Huafeng has its headquarters in the eastern province of Zhejiang, and has contracts for the construction of residential areas in Libya. Yesterday, a crowd of several hundred Libyans looted a construction site west of Tripoli, injuring workers from South Korea and Bangladesh.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

E. U. Suspends All Weapons Deals With Libya

(AGI) Brussels — After a meeting devoted to the Libyan crisis an EU Commission spokesman has said all weapons transactions between Europe and Libya have been stopped .

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Egyptian Interior Ministry in Flames

(AGI) Cairo — Four policemen died when protesters threw fire bombs at the Interior Ministry’s pathology centre in Cairo outside which a thousand people were loudly demanding their jobs back. The situation deteriorated when a group of protesters attacked a number of managers who had come out to negotiate with their former colleagues . Shots were fired and the Egyptian press has reported the death of four policemen .

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Gaddafi’s Last Stand: Europe Dithers

The bloody repression of the Libyan people by the Gaddafi regime is exacerbating the problem of a Europe faced with revolts in the Arab world, writes the European press, which calls for concrete and coordinated action.

Tunisia, Egypt, and now Libya. For two months now the European Union has been a spectator to the wave of protests throughout the Arab world and pondering its role in, and the consequences of, what is happening across the water. And this time, the violent crackdown by the regime of Muammar Gaddafi against the Libyan people is lending a tragic dimension to all this musing.

“‘Revolutions are the locomotives of history’, wrote Karl Marx some 160 years ago. A pretty picture. Especially when you regard the Europeans these days, following the turbulent journey of the Arab world in third class and sitting in the last car,” writes Der Standard. “So far they have found nothing better to do than make worried statements. [But] in Libya, the rhetoric of dismay is no longer enough.”

What’s worse, plague or cholera?

Energy, trade and collaboration on blocking immigration from the south are a few of the many issues that make Europe dependent on the Gaddafi regime, writes the Vienna daily. The newspaper notes that Europe is finding it difficult to defend its interests there and has neither the financial nor military leverage nor a coordinated approach on the issue.

The Marshall Plan for the southern shore of the Mediterranean, requested by the Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, will bear fruit only over the very long term, much like the billions that Ashton is bringing in her luggage to the countries concerned. This also holds true for Algeria and Morocco, where similar interests are at stake. “If the train conductor were to ask for their ticket, the Europeans would have to say they’ve come along for the ride as stowaways. This isn’t just embarrassing. The political spot fine will be very dear for Europe,” writes Der Standard.

The reality is that Europeans are in an impossible position, notes Gazeta Wyborcza. In Libya, they are reduced to asking: “What’s worse, plague or cholera?” remarks the Warsaw daily. “Should we still back a terrorist, tamed and alive, in the illusion that after a few reforms the protesters will go home and that this iron-fisted regime will be replaced by pluralism? Or should we close the books on him and back his opponents financially, or even militarily? Europe is at an impasse. On the one hand, it cannot look idly on as Gaddafi’s mercenaries shoot people in the back. On the other, it fears that the vacuum following Gaddafi will be worse.”

Each crisis makes EU countries hesitate

“The problem,” continues Gazeta Wyborcza, “is that doing nothing would be worse, because Europe is facing its greatest challenge since the collapse of the former Yugoslavia. It is a huge test for Europe’s standing in the world and a chance to exert its soft power and negotiating skills. That is why Europe should propose a partnership programme and provide aid to this region in a state of rebellion.”

As a first step, the EU should “announce new rules of the game before another massacre starts,” recommends Jordi Vaquer, head of the CIDOB Foundation, a think tank on international relations, in El País. The EU should respond with a “freezing of all agreements at the first hint of systematic use of force” against the population, by “freezing the bank accounts of all those who hold important positions” in these regimes, and by “recalling ambassadors for consultation, halting the flow of materials that can be used for repression, and supporting prosecutions of those who may have committed crimes against humanity.”

Unfortunately, observes Jordi Vaquer, “each crisis makes EU countries hesitate,” for “in the same way that Libya is so vital to Italy, Morocco is to Spain, Algeria to France, Oman to the United Kingdom, and Jordan to countries that are friendly to Israel, like Germany.” The think tank director believes, however, that “only a position agreed on in advance and brought automatically into play against any government that would set off a spiral of violent repression can shake Europe out of its shameful paralysis.”…

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Gaddafi’s Daughter on Plane Turned Away From Malta

(AGI) Tripoli — Al Jazeera has reported that in Malta a jet carrying Gaddafi’s daughter has been refused permission to land. The Libyan Arab Airlines ATR 42 allegedly was carrying Aisha Gaddaffi, daughter of the Libyan leader and authorities on the island sent the plane back. The two Mirages belonging to the Libyan Air Force have been in Malta for 48 hours after the pilots refused to obey orders to open fire on protesters .

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Gaddafi Expects ‘Big Father’ Role in New Order, Says Son

Muammer Gaddafi expects to be the “big father” advisor to any new regime in Libya and the country’s current bloody turmoil amounts to a “positive earthquake” that is paving the way for much-needed reform.

That is the assessment of Saadi Gaddafi, one of the Libyan autocrat’s seven sons, who in a telephone interview with the Financial Times that appeared to betray the Gaddafi clan’s increasing isolation, declared that as much as 85 per cent of the country was now “very calm and very safe”.

“It is now 2pm in Tripoli and it is very calm and quiet — 50 or 60 per cent of the people are working normally,” the former professional footballer said.

Despite his claims, there was clear evidence emerging from Libya on Wednesday that Col Gaddafi’s grip on the country was continuing to loosen with its third city, Misurata, becoming the first major city in the west to fall to his opponents.

Sounding relaxed and not like a member of a ruling family that expected to be deposed in the near future, Mr Gaddafi disclosed that his brother, Seif al-Islam, was working on a new constitution and would make an announcement about it soon.

His father, he said, was preparing to work with any new regime. “My father would stay as the big father who advises,” he said.

He offered no information on the state of Libya’s extensive hydrocarbons industry but said that the army would be sent to guard facilities, if necessary.

“The army is still very strong,” he said. “If we hear anything, we will send some battalions. When people see the army, they will be afraid.”

Questioned about Libyan diplomats deserting their posts around the world, Saadi Gaddafi, who at one time worked as a professional footballer in Italy, said: “I don’t care about these guys. My diplomacy is to be honest and tell the truth.”

He also admitted that ships and aircraft had been used to bombard ammunition depots near Benghazi in the east of the country, where most of the recent unrest had been concentrated.

But he emphasised that these depots were away from populated areas.

“We sent planes to those hangars full of ammunition,” he said.

He sought to justify the move by claiming that al-Qaeda had taken advantage of the “chaos” to assume control of the eastern region from legitimate protesters and monarchists.

He estimated that there were “thousands” of al-Qaeda militants in Libya.

Destroying the weaponry was the only way of stopping it from falling into the wrong hands in Libya or other long-standing regional trouble spots such as Afghanistan, he argued.

He also claimed that the British government had last year sent SAS forces to eastern Libya to “train our special forces because they were expecting to fight al-Qaeda in this part of the country”.

Like his father and brother earlier in the week, Mr Gaddafi insisted that many protesters had taken “very powerful” drugs, such as amphetamines or ecstasy.

“We have tonnes of the pills they were given,” he said, though he did not know where they had come from.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Libya Oil Cut But ‘No Worries’

Italy set to evacuate nationals amid fears of ‘civil war’

(ANSA) — Cairo, February 22 — Oil from turmoil-stricken Libya has been cut but Italy has other sources, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Tuesday.

“It’s true we have had reports of reductions in the supply of oil from Libya but the situation should not be cause for concern because we have other sources,” Frattini said before flying back to Italy after meeting Egyptian officials in Cairo. Fuels giant ENI, which runs the Greenstream pipeline from Libya, said Italy’s energy security was not compromised thanks to stocks.

Frattini said oil would be on the agenda of a Libya summit Tuesday evening with Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi and top ministers.

Amid reports of about 1,000 dead in Tripoli after jets bombed crowds, Italy was set to airlift out its nationals and was also sending a military ship.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano appealed to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to halt the crackdown and allow the protesters to voice their “legitimate” calls for reform and greater democracy.

Reform Minister Umberto Bossi of the regionalist Northern League said if waves of migrants start arriving from Libya, “we’ll send them to France and Germany”.

Gaddafi has threatened to loosen migrant controls under a 2008 $5 billion reparations treaty with Italy that includes a pledge to help Italy ‘push back’ illegal immigrants caught in international waters.


Italy is worried about the prospect of a civil war in Libya and the risk of huge migrant waves towards the European Union, Frattini said.

“We are very concerned about the risk of a civil war and the risks of immigration of epochal dimensions towards the European Union,” the foreign minister said after talks with the secretary-general of the Arab League, Amr Mussa. On Monday Frattini, who had been chided for not supporting protests against Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi, stressed the importance of not meddling in Libya’s affairs but also condemned government repression.

Berlusconi, who has cultivated close ties with Gaddafi including the friendship treaty and controversial ‘push-back’ policy that virtually halted migrant arrivals, on Monday night issued his first condemnation of the crackdown.

Libya is currently split between areas in the east controlled by anti-Gaddafi rebels and the capital Tripoli and Gaddafi’s tribal fiefdom where his hand is still strong.

As well as oil, Italy has strong business ties to Libya which has key investments in several large Italian companies.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Erdogan: Authorities Should Not Ignore Democracy Claims

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 22 — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that the Libyan authorities should not make the “mistake” of ignoring the demands of the people for more freedom and democracy. “Brutal interventions against those who express the demands for democracy”, said Erdogan in Parliament, “only boost the spiral of violence”. Erdogan, a moderate Muslim, has firmly supported the Egyptian protesters against Mubarak. He has been criticised by the opposition for failing to do the same for the Libyan demonstrators. The Turkish Prime Minister has said that “the safe repatriation of Turkish citizens is currently our priority”. Around 25,000 Turks are living in Libya; a thousand of these have already returned to Turkey. Two hundred Turkish firms are active in the North African country in building projects, for a total value of around 11 billion euros.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: ‘1,000 Killed’ By Security Forces During Unrest Says Italy-Based Expat Group

Rome, 22 Feb. (AKI) — Libyan security forces have killed some 1,000 people in bombing raids against anti-government protesters since unrest broke out last week, an Italy-based group representing Arab expatriates said on Tuesday, citing sources inside the North African country.

“Hospitals have no electricity and no medicines,” said Foad Aodi, who heads the Rome-based Arab World Communities in Italy (COMAI).

The Italian government of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi “must not remain … deaf and dumb towards the revolution which is currently unfolding,” he said.

COMAI was appealing to the Italian government to send medical and other emergency supplies to Libya, he said.

Arabic satellite TV channel Al-Jazeera cited rights groups as saying on Tuesday nearly 300 people had been killed in mounting violence in the capital and across the North African country since 17 February.

Libyan strongman Muammer Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi said in a state TV address on Monday the total was 84.

In a defiant message broadcast on Libyan state TV on Tuesday, Gaddafi refused to stand down.

In his first major speech since the unrest began, Gaddafi said the whole world looked up to Libya and that the protesters were “serving the devil”.

He accused Italy and the US of distributing rockets to the protesters.

He said he would not leave the country and would “die a martyr”.

Gaddafi has ruled Libya since he toppled King Idris I in a bloodless coup in September, 1969, at the age of 27.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Libya: ENI is Oil Company With Most to Lose in Libya

Rome, 22 Feb. (AKI/Bloomberg) — Eni, the Italian oil producer that’s drilled in Libya during the whole of Muammar Gaddafi’s 41-year rule, is the foreign company with most to lose as the regime threatens to unravel.

As the former colonial power, Italy is the biggest investor in Libya and Rome-based Eni is at the forefront of the relationship. Italy’s largest company pumps almost 250,000 barrels a day in the North African country, or about 14 percent of its total production. Eni’s shares dropped the most in 19 months Monday as unrest worsened.

“Italy and particularly Eni are heavily exposed in Libya and stand to lose a great deal if things fall apart,” said Nicolo Sartori, an energy and security researcher at Rome’s IAI Institute for International Affairs. “Eni’s production and exploration interests in the area are considerable.”

Gaddafi’s son Saif warned of civil war yesterday as protests spread from the east of North Africa’s largest oil producer to the capital Tripoli. Uprisings against political repression and economic stagnation have already toppled autocratic regimes in neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt.

Eni said in a statement yesterday production is continuing as normal even as it evacuates non-essential staff and family members of employees. Eni shares dropped 5.1 percent to 17.43 euros in Milan yesterday, the biggest decline since July 2009.

“The market is naturally jittery given the fact that Eni has ten year contracts that could suddenly become scrap paper if the people that negotiated and signed them are gone,” said Alessandro Frigerio, a fund manager at RMJ Sgr in Milan. “One can only hope that the longstanding links with the country and Eni’s experience in difficult zones will help.”

Military Coup

Eni has been in Libya since 1959, ten years before Gaddafi seized power in a military coup. Ties between the two countries have strengthened in the past two years since the Italian government apologized for colonial rule from 1911 to 1943 and the two countries signed a treaty of cooperation.

Chief executive officer Paolo Scaroni said last week that Eni had been in Libya for many years and would continue to be there.

Libya has used its oil wealth to become one of the biggest foreign investors in Italy. Libyan investors own 7.2 percent of UniCredit, Italy’s biggest bank, including a 4 percent stake held by Libya’s central bank, according to Bloomberg data.

Juventus Stake

The Libyan Investment Authority owned 2 percent of Finmeccanica, Italy’s biggest defence company, as of 17 January 2011, Italy’s market regulator Consob said on its website. Libya also owns 7.5 percent of Juventus soccer club, according to Bloomberg data.

Libya is Eni’s largest source of oil and gas with 244,000 barrel of oil equivalents a day produced in 2009. Eni holds 8,951 square kilometres of developed oil fields in the country, or about one fifth of the company’s total area, according to data on the company’s website. Libya produced an average of 1.6 million barrels a day in January, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Eni may be able to find solace in the fact that any regime that follows Gaddafi will be likely as dependent on oil and gas revenue as its predecessor, said Christine Tiscareno, an equity analyst at Standard & Poor’s in London

“It looks like the protesters are pragmatists, not idealists,” Tiscareno said in a phone interview. “If they overthrow the regime, they’re still going to need revenue from foreign oil companies. I don’t think there’s cause for alarm at the moment, but if they get kicked out of the country, Eni’s in trouble.”

BP Exploration

Other oil companies have started to wind down operations in Libya. BP suspended exploration because of the worsening violence. Statoil said it closed its office in Tripoli and RWE suspended operations.

OMV is withdrawing all non-essential staff from the country. The Vienna-based company produced 34,000 barrels a day in Libya in the first nine months 2010, its third-biggest production country after Romania and Austria.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Libya: Bloodshed Continues, Gaddafi Holds on and Threatens

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 23 — The bloodshed underway in Libya is taking on frightening proportions, with reports of as many as a thousand dead in the fury that the regime has unleashed against the revolt in Tripoli. However, in the eighth day of protests Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi appeared on TV threatening to crack down even harder. A massacre is also occurring in the eastern part of the country, where the protests against the regime under Colonel Gaddafi began and where entire zones are reported to have been taken over by those involved in the revolt. However, even here — according to those on location — number into the hundreds: over 400 in a single Benghazi hospital which is working around the clock and with only the bare minimum due to a lack of medicine and personnel to treat the injured who arrive by the dozens. The regime has admitted — by way of a table released by the Colonel’s son, Seif Al-Islam — 300 dead (242 civilians, of whom over a hundred in Benghazi, and 58 soldiers). Blind, no-holds-barred repression was confirmed in the much-awaited speech by Libyan leader, who spoke to the nation in a lengthy, agitated speech steeped in revolutionary rhetoric.

“I am not a president, I am a leader, a revolutionary who will hold on so long as I am alive. I will die as a martyr,” he said, in the challenge that he launched for an hour and a half yesterday evening in vowing a relentless fight. “We have not yet made use of force but will do so.” Orders for acts of war and devastating ecological destruction have already been circulated, according to reports. Al Jazeera sources say that the Gaddafi has given orders to shell Benghazi from two ships — which, however, have deserted the country and taken refuge in Malta. The US magazine Time has learnt of Gaddafi’s intentions to sabotage oil wells and oil pipelines headed toward the Mediterranean as a message to those in revolt that it is a choice between “me or chaos”. Eyewitnesses have reported to the BBC of shootouts in the capital’s streets, with shots heard in a number of parts of the city even during Gaddafi’s speech, after which no reactions in the street were reported. However, the opposition is said to be preparing another demonstration for this evening, and protestors are said to be headed towards Tripoli from other cities in the country. Meanwhile the thousands of foreigners living and working in the country are going home. About 400 Italians have already come back to Italy out of the 1,500 living in the country. In the evening the president of the Libyan parliament said that calm had been “restored in most of the larger cities”, but during the day soldiers who joined the ranks of those in revolt had reported that Gaddafi had lost control of all of eastern Libya after the revolt which broke out in the capital of the Cyrenaica region, Benghazi, and which then spread to the rest of the country. Residents in Tobruk — the city farthest east and the last before the border with Egypt — have also reported that the city has been under the control of the population for the past three days. The smoke hovering over the houses, they added, is from the weapons depot bombed by troops answering to the Libyan leader. “All of the eastern zones are out of Gaddafi’s control…the population and the army are standing side by side here,” said the former army major Hani Saad Marjaa to Reuters. The bloodbath, however, did not stop at Benghazi, from where Al Jazeera has shown images of carbonized corpses and the remains of human bodies that the pan-Arab TV channel said were images taken by cell phones. From New York the UN Security Council has unanimously approved a declaration in which the last few days’ “acts of violence in Libya are condemned” and the “repression” of Gaddafi’s government is “regretted”. More defections have been seen after a number of diplomats left the ranks of the Libyan leader: the ambassador to Washington has announced his resignation, saying he did not want to serve “a dictatorial regime” and that Gaddafi “must leave”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Karim Mezran: Fear Somali Effect on Country

(ANSAmed) — ROMA, FEBRUARY 23 — “If it keeps up like this and the regime finds its shoulders against the wall we will see a bloodbath. And most of all we risk total fragmentation, as Somali effect on the Country”. The statement was made by Italian/Libyan scholar Karim Mezran, director of the American Study Centre in Rome and teacher of Middle East topics with the John Hokpins University. Interviewed by Ansamed he stated that “If the regime implodes it will be a war with everyone against everyone”.

A scenario that now will be harder to avoid: perhaps it is already too late, he hinted, to find the path for a less painful transition, which potentially could pass by handing over power to the leader’s son Seif al-Islam, and through negotiations between the various tribes that make up the Country.

But Mezran is sceptical, on the grounds of accounts by friends and relatives he is in touch with in Tripoli, on the truth of many reports from Jamahiriyya. “For example, they are not aware that the capital city was bombed”, he stated. The bombing of a city has to be noticed by those who live there, according to the scholar, who instead mentioned machine gun fire from helicopters, bodies on the side of the roads and villages in the hands of the rebels in Tripoli and the Tunisian borders.

He is also sceptical about the resignation of minister of Justice Mustafa Abdeljalil and on the thousand deaths in Tripoli mentioned by witness accounts. He asked “On what grounds? And why not ten thousand?”. Another question concerns the 30,000 troops loyal to Gaddafi based in the south. “Why have they not been moved up towards Bengasi and Al Beida?”. And who really are the rebels? On whose’ behalf do they act? Is there no distinction to be made between spontaneous actions and organised ones, such as those in Al Beida, “with fundamentalists coming in from outside”? But the main concerns are for the future. For example, on the role that can be carried out by certain Islamic components, on whose nature Mezran expresses some “reserves”, especially as regards Cyrenaica.

The case is different for the Muslim Brothers in Egypt and Tunisia, according to Mezran, author with Massimo Campanini of a book on the same movement that today will be presented in Rome.

He emphasised that “One must always distinguish between the various realities. In Egypt and Tunisia the Brotherhood is modern and pluralist, ready to engage in the democratic process”. But the scholar is somewhat worried by the role that can be played by certain preachers such as sheik Yussef Qaradawi, who on Friday spoke to the crowd in Cairo’s Tahrir square, and who in any case stated he had nothing to do with the Muslim Brothers. It often happens that these preachers send contradictory messages with two meanings, he explained.

Duplicity “of which Tariq Ramadam is instead unfairly accused”, he concluded, in reference to the controversial intellectual, a theorist of a modern European Islam.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Concrete Sanctions Against Tripoli, Sarkozy

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, FEBRUARY 23 — French president Nicolas Sarkozy has asked the European Union to adopt “concrete sanctions” against Libya, and expressed the hope that there would be a suspension of economic and financial relations with Tripoli.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Violence and Degradation Against Tunisian Refugees

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 23 — The current climate of violence in Libya has also affected Tunisians who are present in the country, mainly for work, according to Tunisian French language newspapers Le Quotidien and Le Temps. The dailies report that the violence and abuse suffered by Tunisians in Libya has been perpetrated by the popular committees loyal to Gaddafi. Le Quotidien reported a statement from a man named Mahdi, originally from Zarzis and employed in Tripoli, taken at the Ras Jedir border checkpoint. “The popular committees,” he said, “performed constant and humiliating searches. They made us get down on our knees and they beat us with the butts of their weapons. They took all of our money and possessions.” Belgacem, who has worked for two years as a mechanic in Misurata, said that “foreigners are targeted in particular. Tunisians and Egyptians are accused of causing the revolution in Libya”. A carpenter who has been in Libya for just two months expressed anger at the West, and in particular at “Sarkozy, Berlusconi and Obama, and the others who only think about the economic interests of their countries while ignoring all humanitarian values. The statement from the European Union is very soft. It insists on the reactivation of the Internet and is upset about the increased migration towards Europe. Mrs.

Clinton spoke only yesterday about the bloodbath and the hundreds of victims”. Zakaria, an engineer who has been working in a town located 170km from Sheba, after having just landed at the airport in Tunis, told a Le Temps journalist about the danger he faced to get to the airport in that town: “The Libyans are armed to the teeth. They wander the streets armed as if they were cowboys. I was threatened on the road to the airport. I risked getting killed at any moment. Moreover, I was intimidated on several occasions by the searches I was subjected to.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Berlusconi Calls Gaddafi to Deny Italy Armed Anti-Govt Protesters

Rome, 23 Feb. (AKI) Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday telephoned Libya’s leader Muammer Gaddafi to deny a claim he made earlier in a televised speech that anti-government demonstrators had been armed with rockets supplied by Italy.

According to a statement issued by Berlusconi’s office, the call was made following a televised afternoon address by the embattled Gaddafi, in which he said he would never resign and that protesters, whom he branded “terrorists” would be executed.

In a 20 minute phone call with Gaddafi, Berlusconi urged the Libyan leader to avoid civil war and bring a peaceful end to the conflict, newspaper Corriere della Sera reported on Wednesday.

Berlusconi “flatly denied” that Italy had supplied rockets or any weapons to Gaddafi opponents, a charge Gaddafi also levelled at the United States in a defiant speech aired on state TV Tuesday.

Corriere della Sera cited unnamed Italian government sources as saying US secretary of state had invited Berlusconi to call Gaddafi in a message relayed to him by Italy’s foreign minister Franco Frattini.

As recently as Saturday, Berlusconi, who in recent years has sought closer ties between Italy and Libya through a personal friendship with Gaddafi, controversially said he did not want to “disturb” the longest-lived Arab leader.

In the 1 hour and 14 minute speech, Gaddafi, who has ruled Libya for 41 years, said he would fight with his “last drop of blood” to retain power and pledged to deploy the army and police to impose order.

On Monday, Berlusconi joined other European Union leaders in condemning the violence against civilians in Libya in a brutal crackdown by forces loyal to Gaddafi against the revolt that began on 17 February.

Tripoli said on Tuesday that 300 people had been killed in the crackdown. But a Rome-Based Arab expatriate group, Arab World Communities in Italy, cited sources inside Libya as saying 1,000 people had been killed in bombing raids. Reports from Libya citing eye-witnesses claim heavy weaponry and foreign mercenaries have allegedly been used against civilians.

The Italian prime minister’s office also said in a statement on Tuesday it had set up a permanent ministerial committee containing Italy’s interior, defence, justice, economy, industry, welfare and infrastructure ministers.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Libya: Berlusconi — ‘No’ To Risk of Fundamentalist Trigger

(AGI) Rome — The Italian government is keeping a close and concerned eye on developments in Libya, according to Silvio Berlusconi. The Prime Minister, speaking in Rome during public administration meetings, stressed his hopes that recent events do not lead toward a “dangerous path” which might translate into a prevalence of “Islamic fundamentalism”. Mr Berlusconi stated that “we consulted with other European and U.S. leaders through yesterday night due to the situation in Libya”. Silvio Berlusconi emphasized that he objects to “unjustified violence and fostering Islamic fundamentalism”.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Libya: Frattini: Cyrenaica Not Under Government Control

(AGI) Rome — Franco Frattini said that Cyrenaica is no longer under the control of the Libyan government. The foreign minister, speaking at the sidelines of a conference of the Sant’Egidio Community, added: “There are clashes under way in the rest of the country.” .

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Libya: Ahmadinejad Condemns Civilian Killings, Warns Unrest Could Spread to West

Tehran, 23 Feb. (AKI) — Hardline Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday condemned the killings of protesters in Libya and called on its government to respect the people’s will. Demands for change shaking the Middle East would end the oppression of “arrogant” powers and would reach other continents like Europe or America unless discrimination and military occupation ended, he predicted.

“Instead of killing people, listen to them,’ Ahmadinejad said in comments aired on state television. He did not mention Libya’s leader Muammer Gaddafi by name.

“How is it possible that a state leader uses bombers, tanks and cannons to kill his own people and afterwards warn that whoever says something will be killed. That is really ugly,” Ahmadinejad added.

Security forces have repeatedly crushed protests in Iran although they have stopped short of tanks and warplanes which civilians say Libyan security forces have used against them to quell protests in the North African country in recent days.

Libyan authorities said on Tuesday that 300 people -189 civilians and 111 soldiers — had been killed in the unrest that began there on 17 February. But the number of people killed has been put at 1,000 by a Rome-based Arab expat group citing witnesses inside Libya.

‘We are awaiting a major change and a huge wave which will terminate all roots of deceptions,’ Ahmadinejad said.

Government forces killed two people and arrested 1,500 in demonstrations in Iran on 14 February held in solidarity with the people of Egypt and Tunisia, who ousted their autocratic rulers within a month of each other.

Tehran welcomed the Arab uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt as an “Islamic awakening” against despotic rulers.

The 14 February staged by Iran’s opposition Green movement was the first protest organised since December 2009 when eight people were killed in clashes with security forces, ending months of mass protests against the disupted June 2009 election that returned Ahmadinejad to office for a second terms.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Libya’s Gaddafi Did Personally Order Lockerbie Bombing and I Have Proof, Claims Former Justice Minister

Libya’s former justice minister claims Colonel Gaddafi personally ordered the Lockerbie bombing which killed 270 people in 1988.

Swedish tabloid Expressen says Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, who has just resigned from his cabinet post in protest at the violent crackdown against anti-government demonstrations, told their correspondent in Libya: ‘I have proof that Gaddafi gave the order about Lockerbie.’

He told Expressen Gaddafi gave the order to Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, which killed all 259 people on board and 11 on the ground.

‘To hide it, he (Gaddafi) did everything in his power to get al-Megrahi back from Scotland,’ Abdel-Jalil said.

Al-Megrahi was granted a compassionate release from a Scottish prison in August 2009 on the grounds that he was suffering from prostate cancer and would die soon. He is still alive.

The Expressen said its reporter, Kassem Hamade, interviewed the ex-justice minister at ‘a local parliament in a large city in Libya.’

The interview is sure to provoke fury on both sides of the Atlantic, and stoke yet more international pressure on the Libyan leader, who is desperately clinging to power after a popular uprising against his dictatorial rule.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Libya: Tens of Thousands Escaping to Egypt and Tunisia

(AGI) Tripoli — Tens of thousands of foreigners and Libyans are leaving the country, heading for Tunisia and Egypt. With most of the country’s airports out of commission, and Tripoli airport looking like “a field hospital”, thousands of Libyans, Lebanese, Turks, Syrians, Algerians and Germans are trying to get out.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Libya Protests: Fighter Crew Deliberately Crash Jet After Gaddafi Bomb Order

A Libyan pilot deliberately crashed his fighter plane after being ordered to bomb protesters in the city of Benghazi.

The officer ejected from his jet along with his crew before the crash, according to a report by news agency Reuters.

His extraordinary action came as the country teetered on the brink of civil war as forces loyal to Colonel Gaddafi pledged to fight for the dictator ‘until death’ while protesters seized control of the eastern region.

Gaddafi’s rule is becoming increasingly fragile after his number two stepped down and the United Nations called for an end to violence.

The eastern port of Tobruk has declared itself free while Libyan soldiers were quoted as saying they were no longer loyal to the dictator and that the east was out of his control.

An estimated 1,000 people have been killed after the dictator launched a brutal crackdown on protests against his regime. A rambling speech by the ageing leader yesterday was met with fury and dismay by demonstrators.

Thousands of them were flooding the streets of Tripoli as they tried to maintain order in the face of pro-democracy demonstrations.

Huge swathes of the country to the east of the capital have fallen to protesters, with Benghazi already declared a free city.

It has led to tanks and other armoured vehicles retreating west, where military loyalists continue to murder opponents under Gaddafi’s orders.

‘We will fight until death,’ said a soldier in his early 20s outside a military compound close to Tripoli’s Green Square, which has been cleared of demonstrators.

‘The country needs stability at a time like this, and this is what we are providing. The people are on our side.’

Despite such words, bodies continued to pile up in city hospitals following massacres carried out by snipers with high velocity rifles, secret servicemen with machine gun, helicopter gunships, and even fighter bombers.

Tanks are taking positions around major public buildings, including government offices, while sandbags are being used to reinforce defences.

Heavy gunfire broke out in Tripoli as forces loyal to Gaddafi tightened their grip on the Libyan capital while anti-government protesters claimed control of many cities elsewhere and top government officials and diplomats turn against the longtime leader.

While residents of cities in the eastern half of the country celebrated, raising the flags of the old monarchy, the mood in Tripoli was bleak. Residents were afraid to leave their houses, saying pro-Gaddafi forces were opening fire randomly in the streets.

Former British Foreign Secretary Lord Owen today told of his fears ‘unstable’ Gaddafi could launch chemical weapons against his own citizens, similar to Saddam Hussein’s assault on Iraqi Kurds at Halabja in March 1988.

He said: ‘We know this is a person who could unleash either chemical or biological weapons — which he possibly still has — and certainly will not hesitate to use his air force on peaceful protests.

‘It would be impossible for us to sit by if he did unleash his air force.’

William Hague said the British Government was prepared to send as many planes to Libya as necessary to rescue stranded Britons and urged nationals to make contact with the Foreign Office as soon as possible…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Libya Protests: The Tangled Web Keeping Gaddafi in Power

One of the most common observations in recent days, as Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s dictatorship has approached its violent nemesis, is that Libya has “descended into chaos”. Yet the key to understanding the country, and its current convulsions, is that chaos is not just a fact of life, but the essence of Gaddafi’s corrupt and brutal regime. Throughout his 42-year reign, the “Brother Leader” has created a thicket of rival institutions, which he has played off against each other to prevent any competitor from emerging. And even though he initially made the abolition of tribalism one of the core tenets of his revolution, he has increasingly used inter-tribal rivalries to maintain his grip on power.

According to the philosophy outlined in Gaddafi’s Green Book, Libya is ruled as a jamahiriya, meaning “state of the masses”. Theoretically, parliamentary sovereignty lies in the hands of the General People’s Congress, a sclerotic and despised body that supposedly represents the views of every single Libyan, via a branching network of local committees that everyone is supposed to attend, but nobody does. (It is telling that the congress’s headquarters was one of the first buildings in Tripoli to be torched.)

In the mid-1970s, Gaddafi also established the Revolutionary Committees, feared and hated bodies which play a role similar to the Communist Party in the Soviet system. In the mid-1990s, he added another layer of complexity, creating People’s Social Leadership Committees, whose members come from the heads of families, tribes and regional structures. Below these are innumerable overlapping ministries, institutions, authorities and funds, which run the country from day to day. Even before the current crisis, this system had led the infighting to intensify to a debilitating extent. From the outside, this has sometimes been characterised as a struggle between reformers and conservatives — but it is better seen as a struggle for control of lucrative positions in a corrupt system. A WikiLeaks cable from January 2009 showed how Gaddafi used the main anti-corruption committee as a tool for exerting patronage and control, making sure that “entities headed by regime loyalists administer particularly plum contracts, ensuring that they are well-positioned to extract rents [and bribes] from foreign companies”. This has allowed officials up to and including the ruling family to accumulate vast fortunes, and hide them in foreign accounts. This administrative chaos was damaging enough — but the pattern of divide and rule did not end there. Gaddafi created a huge number of intelligence and state security bodies, so his people could never know who might be informing on them. The army is a weak and fractured institution, which Gaddafi has never trusted and has always kept at arm’s length: its commander, Major General Abu Bakr Yunis Jabir, is reportedly under house arrest after refusing to order troops to fire on protesters.

The consequence of this haphazard, overlapping structure is that, unlike in Egypt or Tunisia, there is no single group with the authority and resources to depose the dictator — which is precisely what Gaddafi intended. To complicate matters even further, he stuffed the lists of regional military governors, Republican Guard leaders and Revolutionary Committee members with members of his own tribe, the Qadhadhfa. Because of its relatively lowly status in the hierarchy, it is unlikely that the majority of the population would accept another of its members wielding power in Gaddafi’s place: that means the entire regime has its back to the wall, not just its leader.

One encouraging sign is that the million-strong Warfalla tribe, largely based in the west, appears to be allied with the protests. The Warfalla have long been a bulwark of the regime: they provided many members of officers’ movement which backed Gaddafi’s 1969 coup against King Idris Sanussi. The other tribe which is strongly loyal are the Megraha, whose number includes the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi — hence the importance of his repatriation.

One of the worst-case scenarios for Libya is a partition into east and west regions, as tribes from each seek to revenge themselves on their enemies. Although often characterised as Islamist, the opposition in the east has also been deeply tribal: the old monarchy was supported by the tribes of Cyrenaica’s Green Mountains, who have maintained a low-level insurgency against Gaddafi’s rule.

If Gaddafi is to be toppled without a long and bitter conflict, it may require one of his closest circle, sometimes referred to as “the men of the tent”, to turn against him. Among this circle are his brother-in-law Abdalla Senoussi and foreign minister Musa Kusa, the senior officials largely responsible for internal and external security respectively. Failing that, one of the senior military figures will have to step into the breach — although any units that join the rebellion in the east could face the elite and well-equipped 32nd Reinforced Brigade of the Armed People, led by Gaddafi’s sixth son, Khemis. With Libya’s dictator digging in, the denouement is likely to be bloody.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Libya: Civil War Breaks Out as Gaddafi Mounts Rearguard Fight

Residents of parts of the capital were trapped in their homes as “thousands” of soldiers patrolled the streets accompanied by African mercenaries.

Tanks took up positions around public buildings including government offices, while sandbag defences were also being built. “We will fight until death,” a pro-Gaddafi soldier in his early 20s said outside a military compound close to Tripoli’s Green Square, which had been cleared of demonstrators by yesterday morning. “The country needs stability at a time like this, and this is what we are providing. The people are on our side.”

Residents said bodies were still piling up in hospitals from the shootings of the previous two days.

“Anywhere we go there is danger,” said one woman, a 28-year-old mother of four who asked not to be named. “All we want is food and fresh water for our children but it is impossible to find. Security is the only concern of the authorities.”

As ministers, generals and diplomats around the world defected, government spokesmen loyal to Col Gaddafi were trying to rally people to his side.

Col Gaddafi signalled a fightback in a speech on Tuesday, when he called on supporters to “chase away the rats and terrorists” who he said were plunging the country into civil war.

Ahmed al-Zuwi, secretary general of the People’s Committees, the leading authorities, said the government was in control. He blamed the unrest on the Gulf state of Qatar, which he said had ordered al-Jazeera, the television station owned by its royal family, to “spread lies” as part of a trade dispute.

General Jameel al-Kadiki, deputy commander of the air force, denied that his jets had bombed civilians but said they had been forced to prevent opponents “meddling” with military supplies and “using them against the Libyan people”.

Later, the deputy foreign minister, Khaled Khaim, summoned EU ambassadors to claim that al-Qaeda had set up a base in the city of Darnah, under rebel control for several days. The cell was headed by a former inmate of Guantanamo Bay, he said.

But the area under government control was shrinking. Most of the east is now held by protesters and is relatively peaceful, though there were reports of dozens of deaths in shootings in al-Bayda, east of Benghazi, on Tuesday evening.

The numbers who have died in the fighting was not certain. Franco Frattini, Italy’s foreign minister, said reports of 1,000 dead were “credible”.

Maj Gen Suleiman Mahmoud al-Obeidi, a former eastern army commander, was with troops in Tobruk. Misrata, a major coastal city to the east of Tripoli, and Zawiya to the west, were also said to be under rebel control, with video footage showing a Gaddafi poster being thrown down in the former.

But opposition groups said the Khamis Brigade, loyal to and named after Col Gaddafi’s youngest son, was now moving against these towns. Soliman Albrassi, a resident of Misrata, said loyalist forces were attacking the television station there.

“Gaddafi will burn all cities under his control,” he said. “We will not let escape with all of this.”

Loyalist forces were also fighting back in the city of Sabratha, famed for its Roman ruins, after rebels burned government buildings and police stations.

Col Gaddafi and his sons seemed to be working on a plan to regroup in Tripoli and the province of Sirte, his birthplace, which is also assumed to remain loyal, before using his forces to fight back. Two crew of a Sukhoi-22 ground attack jet ejected and allowed their plane to crash after refusing orders to bomb Benghazi, the eastern city where the revolution started.

One bank worker in Benghazi, who asked not to be named, said: “All the people in Benghazi are ready to fight against anyone who is sent from Gaddafi’s side. There is no way back for him.” But Mohammed Ali Abdullah, deputy leader of the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, a leading exile group, said he was concerned that the parts of the army that had defected had shown no sign of willingness themselves to take the revolution on.

“We aren’t seeing the army’s different brigades trying to reinforce themselves to take on the Khamis Brigade and the mercenaries,” he said. “There has been a lot of disappointment with the role of the army that has defected — it has defected and then sat down to watch.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Libya: Tony Blair ‘Too Close’ To Gaddafi Regime, David Cameron Claims

The Prime Minister criticised the way his predecessor established ties with the Libyan dictator, whose violence against his own people has turned the spotlight on Britain’s dealins with his regime under Labour. Mr Blair famously restored relations with Col Gaddafi at a 2004 meeting in Tripoli dubbed the “deal in the desert.” That led to scores of British companies starting to do business in Libya, and was followed by the release in 2009 of the Lockerbie bomber.

Mr Cameron said that Mr Blair’s initial dealings with Col Gaddafi had been justified because they may have helped dissuade the Libyan leader from developing nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. But clear limits should have been imposed on Britain’s subsequent dealings with Tripoli, he said.

“In terms of what Tony Blair did, clearly it was right to encourage and then to welcome Libya to give up its weapons of mass destruction,” Mr Cameron said.

“That relationship needed to have some clear parameters. Parameters should have been in place when this relationship began.” Since leaving office, Mr Blair made use of his ties with the Gaddafi family and was once described as “a personal family friend”, by one of the dictator’s sons.

Now an adviser to a US investment bank, Mr Blair has visited Libya and met Col Gaddafi on business in recent years. He has repeatedly denied any direct financial relationship with the Gaddafi regime. Speaking in Qatar on the latest leg of his Middle East tour, Mr Cameron said the Libyan regime’s recent violence against opposition protestors was “completely unacceptable.

However, Mr Cameron rejected a call from Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, for the European Union to impose economic sanctions on Libya. Mr Cameron’s comments came as Libya’s outgoing justice minister told a Swedish newspaper that he had “proof” Col Gaddafi personally ordered the Lockerbie bombing that killed 270 people in 1988. Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, who stepped down to protest the clampdown on demonstrations, told Expressen newspaper, that Gaddafi gave the order to Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted in the bombing, although he did not describe the proof in question.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Morocco Allocates $5b to Improve Social Services

The Moroccan government has reached a tentative agreement with associations of young university graduates who are unemployed, under which they will be employed in the public sector [i.e. given government jobs] in the weeks and months ahead.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Report: Libyan Fighter Jet Crashes Near City of Benghazi

Cairo — A Libyan fighter jet crashed near the eastern city of Benghazi on Wednesday, Libyan news website al-Qurayna reported.

The jet’s pilot and co-pilot parachuted out of the jet after allegedly refusing to carry out orders to bomb Benghazi, military sources told al-Qurayna.

The jet crashed into an empty space near the town of Ajdabiya, around 160 kilometres southwest of Benghazi.

Benghazi, where the anti-government protests began, is reported to be in control of protesters.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Saudi King Returns to Riyadh and Promises Public Subsidies

(AGI) Riyadh — King Abdallah landed in Riyadh today after a 3-month convalescence in Morocco, following double spinal surgery. Welcomed by a troupe of bedouin dancers, the 86-year-old monarch announced a 35bn dollar bonanza to fund, among other things, mortgages and a 15pc rise in public sector wages. Observers characterise the move as expressly designed to buffer civil tensions within the Kingdom, following domino outbreaks of unrest in the Arab world.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

‘The West Saw Gadhafi as Indispensable’

The Arab revolution has reached Libya, and European leaders have been condemning Moammar Gadhafi’s violent crackdown on protestors. German commentators on Tuesday point out that Europe has grown used to relying on Gadhafi for oil — and ignoring the nature of his regime.

Amid rumors Monday that he’d fled for Venezuela, and after hours of teasing by broadcasters and government officials that he would give a speech, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi appeared on TV for less than a minute, in the rain, holding an umbrella and sitting in the cab of a truck. It was after midnight, already Tuesday morning. “I wanted to speak with the young people on Green Square and spend the night with them, but then this good rain came,” he said, according to the news agency dpa. “I am here to show that I am in Tripoli, not Venezuela. Don’t listen to reports by stray dogs.”

The exact location of the statement wasn’t clear. Gadhafi’s hold on power had evidently slipped; but he’d still managed to embarrass a Western politician.

Rumors of His Departure Greatly Exaggerated

On Monday William Hague, the British foreign minister, had said Gadhafi was possibly on his way to Venezuela, where he had good relations with President Hugo Chavez. “I have no information that says he is although I have seen some information that suggests he is on his way there,” Hague said after an emergency EU meeting of foreign ministers on Libya.

The EU is struggling to compose a coherent response to the confusion in Libya. On Monday some 150 people reportedly died when government forces fired on crowds of protesters, and Al-Jazeera relayed eyewitness reports that fighter planes had opened fire on unarmed demonstrators in Tripoli. There were similar stories from Benghazi, Libya’s second city, which two Libyan air force colonels seemed to confirm when they landed fighter jets in Malta. The pilots said they’d fled a base in eastern Benghazi and refused orders to attack civilians, according to the Associated Press.

The Libyan government denies these reports, and Gadhafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, says Libyan planes had only attacked weapons arsenals in remote areas.

‘Seek Out a Dialogue With the People’

Because of a news and information blackout, details from Libya are scarce. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined a number of Western leaders on Monday by saying she “strongly condemned” the violence. Her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said she was “shocked” by reports on Monday and added, “Our appeal to those politically responsible there is to grant the freedom of assembly to those who want to protest peacefully and to seek out a dialogue with the people.”

German commentators on Tuesday are disappointed by the Western response. Across the political spectrum they accuse European leaders of hedging their bets with Gadhafi. His North African nation — once colonized by Italy — provides oil to Europe, and Gadhafi has warned his neighbors to the north for years that he might “open the floodgates” of immigrants to the EU if Europe failed to treat him well…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The EU is Weak and Clueless on Libya

If further evidence is needed that the European Union is an emperor with no clothes when it comes to global power, look no further than its handling of the Libya issue. With several hundred Libyans already dead at the brutal hands of Colonel Gaddafi and his murderous thugs, all the EU has been able to muster is a mealy-mouthed statement condemning the violence, but without even identifying the key figure responsible. Here’s the full statement issued earlier this week by Baroness Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Policy: The European Union is extremely concerned by the events unfolding in Libya and the reported deaths of a very high number of demonstrators. We condemn the repression against peaceful demonstrators and deplore the violence and the death of civilians. We express our sympathy to the families and friends of the victims.

The EU urges the authorities to exercise restraint and calm and to immediately refrain from further use of violence against peaceful demonstrators. Freedom of expression and the right to assemble, as provided for in particular by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, are human rights and fundamental freedoms of every human being which must be respected and protected. The EU calls on the authorities to immediately cease the blocking of public access to the internet and mobile phone networks. The EU also calls upon the authorities to allow media to work freely throughout the country.

The legitimate aspirations and demands of the people for reform must be addressed through open and meaningful Libyan-led dialogue. I very much doubt that “mad dog” Gaddafi, as Reagan called him, is taking a blind bit of notice of what Catherine Ashton has to say in her weak-kneed statement. In fact he probably hasn’t even heard of her. What he will pay attention to, however, is the prospect of stringent economic, political and military sanctions against his regime, a complete halt on investment from European countries, the freezing of bank accounts, and above all a travel ban against him, his family, and all of his henchmen. After all, the EU as a whole accounts for 70 percent of Libya’s trade, which amounted to 26.4 billion euros in 2009. Yet again on a major international crisis, the EU is looking like a deer in the headlights. All of the real action at the moment on Libya is taking place in the major capitals of Europe at a nation state level — London, Paris, Berlin — where there is serious talk of sanctions and concrete action against Gaddafi. Hopefully, the Butcher of Tripoli and Benghazi won’t be in power much longer and will be ultimately removed by his own people. But in the meantime, the free world must do all it can to also help bring his dictatorship to its knees, isolate it on the world stage and apply firm pressure on Gaddafi to go. But Europe should not cling to the illusion that a bunch of unelected bureaucrats in Brussels afflicted with delusions of grandeur will actually be leading the way.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Former Trade Minister Arrested

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 22 — Former Trade Minister Slimene Ourak, in office under Ben Ali, has been arrested and has been taken to the army barracks at El Aouina, Tunis. The charges made against him mainly regard the period in which Ourak was general director of Customs. He has allegedly supported large-scale smuggling operations carried out by members of the Ben Ali family.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Uprising in Libya: ‘Survival Hinges on Tribal Solidarity’

For decades, Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi managed to balance the political influence of the country’s tribal groups, often using the threat of reprisals. Now, however, he seems to be losing control. Libya expert Hanspeter Mattes predicts a return to an era of traditional strongmen.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The military played a key role in the overthrow of the government in Egypt. Why is it different in Libya?

Mattes: The different role of the Libyan military reflects its different social structures. Libya, together with Yemen and Jordan, is among the nations in which tribes have played a central social and political role for centuries. In Libya, which is largely covered by deserts, the importance of tribes is largely due to the Bedouin way of life, which is based on livestock farming and the caravan trade and was dominant into the 20th century. Their survival hinged on tribal solidarity.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: How does this tribal structure affect Libyan politics?

Mattes: Moammar Gadhafi’s assumption of power in 1969 resulted in members of the Gadhafi tribe (the “Qadhadhifa”) and the allied Maqarha and Warfalla tribes taking over all key positions in the security arena, that is, in the armed forces, police and intelligence service, thereby guaranteeing their control. For this reason, it was never to be expected, in the event of open political opposition questioning the dominance of the three tribes, that the members of the tribes would renounce their own tribes and defect to the opposition. This sort of situation has only materialized now, because the Warfalla tribe was opposed to the Gadhafi’s tribe’s harsh treatment of the opposition and therefore distanced itself from the Gadhafi tribe. The Warfalla tribe can afford to change course, because it’s a powerful tribe. Smaller tribes are less likely to have this choice.


29 PhotosPhoto Gallery: Libya Rises up Against Gadhafi

SPIEGEL ONLINE: It seems as if a large number of different interest groups were coming together in Libya. How large is the actual influence of the individual tribes?

Mattes: There about 140 tribes and influential large families in Libya. According to Libyan historian Faraj A. Najm, however, only 30 have political influence.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Did Gadhafi’s takeover in the late 1960s affect the equilibrium among the tribes in any way?

Mattes: In Tripolitania, which is in northwestern Libya, the Warfalla tribe, in addition to the Wana Farsha and Tarhunis tribes, traditionally plays a central role. The small and otherwise insignificant Gadhafi tribe, which is allied with the Warfalla tribe and whose territory borders the Surt region in the east, took on a politically central and dominant role when Gadhafi came to power, a position it has been able to maintain since then by entering into tribal alliances.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do the tribes alone have all the say? Or are there other factors?…

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

‘We Are Fair Game’: Thousands of Egyptian Migrant Workers Flee Libya

Fearing for their lives after being blamed for the uprising, Egyptian migrant workers are trying to get out of Libya and back to their homes in Egypt. They report being fired on by helicopters, and seeing mercenaries armed with rocket-propelled grenades roaming the streets. The border is open, but chaotic.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

WikiLeaks: Gaddafi Family Feud Over Business Fortunes — the Economic Times

LONDON: Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi has built up a vast business empire which is the source of a bitter dispute between his children, diplomatic memos published in Wednesday’s Financial Times claimed.

In a cable obtained by the WikiLeaks website and entitled Gaddafi Incorporated ,” US embassy officials described how the long-serving ruler and his family had “direct access to lucrative business deals.”

In the May 2006 document, diplomats wrote that Gaddafi’s family had “strong interests in the oil and gas sector, telecommunications, infrastructure development, hotels, media distribution, and consumer goods distribution.”

The children also drew “income streams” from the national oil company and oil service subsidiaries, giving them a stake in a sector which generates tens of billions in export dollars annually, the officials claimed.

The cable explained that Saif al-Islam, Gaddafi’s second son and heir apparent, had access to the oil industry through a subsidiary of his “One-Nine Group.”

Gaddafi’s daughter, Aisha Muammar, had close connections to the energy and construction sectors while Mohammed, the eldest son, had “major input over any telecom or internet service,” the diplomats believed.

Third son Saadi was occupied “with his soccer teams, the Olympic Committee and his military career” but was involved in a three-way family fight over a Coca-Cola franchise, which the memo described as a “very twisted tale.”

In 2009, Moamer Gaddafi agreed to invest 16 million euros (21.9 million dollars) in a hotel and water-bottling complex in the earthquake-ravaged Italian town of L’Aquila.

Activists said foreign regulators should trace and seize Gaddafi’s assets.

“When a ruler is being questioned in his own country in the way Gaddafi is, people need to investigate immediately and freeze any assets they find until that investigation is complete,” said Huguette Labelle, chair of the board of Transparency International.

“People have to do their homework and they have to do it fast,” Labelle told the business daily.

When asked how much he believed the ruling family had hidden away, Alistair Newton, senior political analyst at Japanese bank Nomura, told Wednesday’s Guardian newspaper that he “would be surprised if it didn’t run into billions.”

Another leaked cable, dated March 2009, detailed further examples of “internecine warfare” between the Gaddafi siblings which “provided local observers with enough dirt for a Libyan soap opera.”

“Much of the (family) tension appears to stem from resentment of Saif al-Islam’s high-profile as the public face of the regime,” the cable explained.

“Deeper tension about contradictions between Saif al-Islam’s proposed political-economic reforms…and the old school manner by which he has tried to monopolize the most lucrative economic sectors, also play an important role.

“The arrest of a number of Saif al-Islam allies since last summer…suggest that the current level of discord among Gaddafi’s children is acute,” the cable concluded.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gaza: Israeli Soldiers Wound 4 Jihad Militants

(ANSAmed) — GAZA, FEBRUARY 23 — Four Islamic Jihad militants were injured today near the Karni (Mintar) border crossing by fire from Israeli soldiers who believed that they were preparing an attack. The news was reported by Palestinian sources on-site, which say that one of the injured individuals, who seems to have been hit by bullet fragments, is in serious condition. There was no comment on the incident in Israel. Yesterday, Israel’s new Chief of Staff, General Benny Gantz, carried out an on-site inspection of the area of the Jewish agricultural settlements near the Gaza Strip, which are often attacked by Palestinians. The general assured the inhabitants that the Israeli Army is well-trained and capable of dealing with any incident that might occur.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Is the West Bank Next?

If Binyamin Netanyahu’s govenment, and its lobby in Washington, were rational they would be rushing to plan Israel’s evacuation from the occupied territories, and encouraging the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

That is because they would understand that the Arab revolution will not stop at the gates of the West Bank, especially when it is the occupation that unites virtually all Arabs and Muslims in common fury.

As for the Palestinians themselves, they are watching the revolutions with a combination of joy and humiliation. Other Arabs are freeing themselves from local tyrants while they remain under a foreign occupation that grows more onerous every day -particularly in East Jerusalem. While other Arabs revel in what they have accomplished, the Palestinians remain, and are regarded as, victims.

It is not going to last. The Palestinians will revolt, just as the other Arabs have, and the occupation will end.

But it is up to the Israelis to help decide how it will end (just as it was up to the Mubarak government and Egyptian army to decide whether the regime would go down in blood and flames or accept the inevitable).

Gaza mistakes

For Israel, that means accepting the terms of the Arab League Initiative (incorporating United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338) and trade the occupied lands for full peace and normalisation of relations with the entire Arab world. Or it can hang on to an unsustainable status quo.

They can wait for the eruption, thinking they can contain it and ignoring the fact that the weaponry they can use against any foreign invaders cannot be used against an occupied civilian population. That is especially true in the age of Al Jazeera and of Twitter, Facebook, and the rest.

Right-wing Israelis and their lobby in Washington invariably respond to this argument by saying that it is impossible to leave the West Bank, pointing to the experience in Gaza. They withdrew only to have their own land beyond the border shelled by militants who seized control as Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) troops left for home.

That is true and it might indeed happen again if the Israeli occupation is ended as a result of a popular uprising.

But Gaza is only an applicable precedent if Israel leaves without negotiating the terms of its departure. Israel left Gaza when Palestinians made the price of staying too high. But, rather than negotiating its way out, Israel just left.

Colonial mentality

In an act of colossal and typical arrogance Ariel Sharon, the former prime minister, withdrew unilaterally. Not only did he refuse to negotiate the terms of the withdrawal with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, Sharon refused even to give the Palestinian Authority (PA) advance notice of the day and time of their departure.

Had they done so, the PA would have been in place to prevent the havoc that ensued. But they weren’t. Sharon, utterly contemptuous of Palestinians, behaved as if Israel was 19th century Belgium and Palestine was the Congo. No consultations with the natives were even contemplated.

The Israeli government would have to be absolutely out of its mind to allow a repeat of that experience. But that would likely happen if Israel is forced out rather than negotiating its way out.

Fortunately, both the Israelis and the Palestinians already have worked out detailed plans to ensure mutual security following an Israeli withdrawal. In fact, the Palestinian Authority already utilizes those plans to maintain West Bank security and, with Israeli help, prevents attacks on Israel from territories its control…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Islamist Leader Arrested for Forest Fire Arson

The leader of a major Muslim movement in Israel is suspected of setting fire to a forest less than three months after the worst fire in modern Israeli history. Sheikh Ra’ad Salah, head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, has been arrested in connection to an arson attack in southern Israel.Salah allegedly set fire to a Eucalyptus forest in southern Israel. The attack was allegedly in protest of a Jewish National Fund project in the area.

The Jewish National Fund is working to forest parts of the Negev, a plan opposed by some Bedouin residents of the region. Residents of the illegal town of El-Araqib in particular have condemned the project out of concern that it will use land that they hope to use in the future to house Arabs “returning” to Israel from the rest of the Arab world.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Peres: Israel Has Reasons to be Angry With Europe

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 23 — “If Europe is angry with Israel, Israel has many reasons to be angry with Europe,” said Israeli President Shimon Peres, speaking in Madrid at an encounter organised by Europa Press, responding to criticism regarding the situation in Gaza and the West Bank. “Europe criticises us about Gaza,” said the Nobel Prize-winner, “but the Europeans are the ones who attacked Kosovo” and afterwards came to “Afghanistan, Chechnya and Somalia”. “It is very difficult to fight against terrorism,” he added, “against people who use civilians as human shields.” Peres reiterated Israel’s desire to reach a peace agreement and to create a Palestinian state, the creation of which, he said, “paradoxically” is being contributed to by Israel “by given back lands to the Palestinians that neither Egypt nor Jordan had wanted to give in the past”. On the other hand, the uprisings that are taking place in the Arab and Muslim world for greater freedom and democracy, according to Shimon Peres, could encourage the peace process. Peace, he observed, “is like a galloping horse that passes close to your house: you have to jump on, because otherwise it will run away without us.” And Israel is determined not to let it run away. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, according to Peres, “are valid counterparts”. Even though, after 10,000 rockets have been fired at Israel after a unilateral withdrawal from fringe of Gaza, “who can assure that the same thing would not occur if we were to leave the West Bank? One the other hand, Peres insisted on Israel’s desire to help “the Arabs achieve their freedom and independence”, also because “it cannot continue to exist like an island in the ocean”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Stakelbeck on Terror Show: Live From Jerusalem

On this week’s special edition of Stakelbeck on Terror, we’re on location in Israel for analysis of the latest events in the region.

CBN’s Middle East Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell joins me in Jerusalem for a closer look at what lies ahead for Israel.

First, Chris recounts his harrowing recent experience in Cairo, where he was caught in the middle of a massive street battle in the final days of the Mubarak regime (top of the show).

We then take a special look at how Palestinian terrorism affects the average Israeli citizen. A wakeup call for America (11:32 into the show).

Then, analysis with Chris on the latest in the region: Will the Muslim Brotherhood take charge in Egypt? How close is Iran to acquring a nuclear weapon? Is war coming soon to the Middle East? And what are Israeli officials saying? (17:13 into the show)

I’m joined by some special guests at the 23:30 mark of the show that you won’t want to miss…

Finally, we examine the destructive international push to divide the city of Jerusalem. (24:20 into the show)

Click the link above to watch.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck[Return to headlines]

University: EU: Soon Info Day in Ramallah on Erasmus Mundus

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 22 — The EU-funded Erasmus Mundus programme is holding two information sessions in the city of Ramallah to provide more information on the call. The aim of the Eu programme — according to the Enpi website ( — is to promote european higher education, to help improve and enhance the career prospects of students and to promote intercultural understanding through cooperation with third countries. The first information session, to take place on 28 February in the morning, at the ministry of Education and Higher Education, is addressed at universities’ managerial staff including heads of universities, vice-presidents, heads of planning departments, deans, etc. The second session, targeting higher education students, interested in undertaking Master or PhD degrees in Europe or other third countries, will be held on the same day at 2pm, at the Sharek Youth Forum premises, headquarters and activities Center, Al-Tireh Street in Ramallah. The 2011 Erasmus Mundus call for proposals is worth almost 100 million euros worldwide, with 36 million euros available for ENPI countries, south and east, under Erasmus Mundus Partnerships, aiming at a minimum mobility of 1,090 individuals.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

$40b Missing From Iraqi Development Fund — Worst Corruption Case Ever Incites Iraqi Street

Iraqi parliamentary speaker Osama al-Nujaifi announced in parliament yesterday that $40 billion had been drawn from the Iraqi Development Fund in which oil revenues are deposited. The fate of this vast amount is undocumented or accounted for.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

An Unusual Event in Saudi Arabia — Labor Strike in Makkah

Over 600 construction workers employed by a major construction company on a project close to the Grand Mosque in Makkah are in the second day of a strike.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Bahrain: 23 Shiites Freed, Leader of Opposition Pardoned

(AGI) Manama — Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa pardoned two exiled Shiite opposition leaders and released another 23 activists.

The clemency measures measures are part of a series of concessions announced by the Crown Prince of Bahrain to encourage dialogue after the street protests and clashes of recent weeks. The announcement was made by Jassem Hussein, a member of parliament for the main Shiite party, the Islamic National Accord Association.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Blowouts: Peres: Dictators, No Future in Transparent World

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 23 — “Dictators have no future in a transparent world,” globalised through the internet, and the fall of Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “is only a matter of time”, because you cannot govern people “with blood, bombs and hate”, said Israeli President Shimon Peres today in Madrid, speaking to Europa Press on the third and last day of his official visit to Spain. “The Iranian leader produces nuclear bombs and hate. Young people leave Iran because unemployment has reached 30%, and despite their oil,” underlined the Nobel Peace prize-winner, “they have no chance to rise from their poverty. These are generations that will not give up and it is our duty to help them achieve freedom.” According to Shimon Peres, “the time has come for the world to loudly and clearly condemn these dictators”, a time for a “moral campaign so that it becomes a disgrace to be seen with people like Ahmadinejad and Gaddafi”. Both “are condemned to disappear”. The Israeli president insisted on the fact that Iran in particular “is not a danger just for Israel, but for the entire world” due to its nuclear plan. And he underlined that the economic sanctions are producing results” even though a “moral” mobilisation is necessary.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Frattini: Israel is the Only Democracy

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 23 — The wave of tensions, peaceful uprisings, but also the bloodbaths, like the one in Libya, which are shaking the Mediterranean area make the statement, “Israel is the only real democratic state in the area” more true today than ever. Today Foreign Minister Franco Frattini underlined the validity of Italy’s foreign policy regarding Israel (“Italy’s best friend in Europe”) despite how many people in the past “have pointed the finger at us”, he said. The comments were made in the context of the launch on February 1st of Raitalia on Israeli television thanks to a deal between Rai World and Israeli Yes DBS. Rai President Paolo Garimberti and the Israeli Ambassador in Rome, Gideon Meir, were present today at Rai headquarters on Viale Mazzini today for the presentation. “Time has shown,” said the minister, “that the other partnerships with the West had more to do with convenience and coexistence than with shared values, like the respect for rights.” The “shared values” that “unite Israel and Italy and their people” and upon which a “true European action for the Mediterranean” must be founded, said Frattini.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

It is Not Prejudice or Racism to Suggest Arabs ‘Can’t Do Democracy’

David Cameron has attacked the idea that Middle East countries “can’t do democracy” or that they need “highly controlling” regimes to ensure stability..

In a speech to the Kuwaiti parliament, the Prime Minister dismissed the belief that Arab or Muslim countries cannot cope with free and fair elections, and said: “For me, that’s a prejudice that borders on racism.”

That’s a curious phrase. The dictionary describes “prejudice” as:

a. An adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts.

b. A preconceived preference or idea.

No Arab country has ever produced a democracy, or at least a lasting democracy; none of the 22 member states of the Arab League are classified as “free”, and all do badly on press freedom and other indicators. In fact, there is only Arabic-speaking country in the world where elections are free, the press is free, and Arab citizens are free, and that’s Israel. So to believe that Arab states cannot “do democracy” is not a judgment based “without knowledge or examination of the facts”, but the opposite.

Neither is it racist to acknowledge that there are clear differences between Arab and European nations that make the former barren ground for democracy. And the major difference is that Arab countries are not “nations” as we understand it.

The great philosopher of the nation-state, Roger Scruton, has often written about the importance of the former for the latter. Among other things he has pointed out:…

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Italy-UAE: Defence: Fincantieri Boosts Presence in Gulf

(ANSAmed) — ABU DHABI, FEBRURAY 22 — Italy’s defence industry has strengthened its position of strength in the Gulf, with a significant presence of Italian companies featuring in the tenth edition of Idex, an important event for the sector in the Middle East, which is currently being held in Abu Dhabi.

There is a significant Fincantieri presence, with the group currently building a strong collaboration relationship with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Contracts have already been signed for a corvette and two sophisticated, low-traceability stealth patrollers, which are currently being built in the company’s plants in Liguria.

Fincantieri also has options for another corvette and for further numbers (up to 6) of the “Falaj 2” patroller. The technical production also includes logistical support and crew training.

The growing presence in the region is shown by the recent creation of Etihad Ship Building, a joint venture between Fincantieri, Al Fattan Ship Industries and Melara Middle East, which will allow the company headed by Giuseppe Bono to record a greater presence in the area with deals to design and produce both military and civilian ships.

“A relationship of trust being built between Fincantieri and the Emirati marine military, thanks to the quality of the ships and the respect of tight delivery times,” the Fincantieri Chair, Corrado Antonini, told ANSA during a presentation attended by the UAE’s Chief of Staff, Ibrahim Salem Al Musharakh, in which the collaboration between the Emirati navy and the Italian group was revisited.

This trust was echoed by Brigadier General Al Musharakh, who said that he was sure that “this is the beginning of a long and lasting cooperation” with one of the world’s most important naval engineering companies.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Jordan: February 25 Day of Rage, Opposition

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN (JORDAN), FEBRUARY 23 — A “Day of Rage” has been called in Jordan’s capital, Amman, for this Friday to “denounce acts of violence and demand reform”. The opposition made the announcement and hopes to make it the largest demonstration since the beginning of the protests in the Hashemite kingdom in January. “About 10,000 members of the Islamic movement” are expected in Amman to “denounce acts of violence and demand reform”, France Presse was told by Zaki Bani Rsheid, member of the executive committee of the Muslim Brotherhood and main opposition party. Nineteen other parties and groups have made an appeal to protest alongside the Islamic Action Front in the capital and in several governorates in the kingdom. “The government has obtained an extension to bring in reform, but clearly it is hesitating and trying to buy time with words…

Despite the promises, we have not been contacted for dialogue on the amendment of the electoral law, which constitutes the corner stone of the reform process.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Medvedev Sees ‘Fires for Decades’ In Arab World

MOSCOW — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday predicted decades of instability in the Arab world if protesters whom he called fanatics come to power, adding no such scenario will be permitted at home. Medvedev’s words fall in sharp contrast with the European Union, which said in a statement on Monday that it “deplores the violence” and “repression” against the pro-democracy protesters by authorities in one of the troublespots, Libya.

Speaking at a security meeting in the Caucasus city of Vladikavkaz, Medvedev didn’t name countries, but he was referring to the crisis in the Middle East and North Africa — which has brought down governments in Tunisia and Egypt and sparked protests in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Iran, Morocco and Jordan.

“These states are difficult, and it is quite probable that hard times are ahead, including the arrival at power of fanatics. This will mean fires for decades and the spread of extremism,” Medvedev said in televised comments.

Any attempts to repeat the unrest in Russia would be quashed, he said. “They have prepared such a scenario for us before, and now more than ever they will try and realize it. In any case, this scenario won’t succeed,” he said, without identifying the people he considers could threaten the Kremlin.

Russia has crushed Islamist separatists in two wars in Chechnya in the last 15 years, and continues to battle a lingering insurgency in the wider Caucasus region. The region is the epicenter of terrorism in Russia, with most of the high-profile attacks in recent years claimed by or attributed to Caucasus rebels.

In the past Medvedev also has warned domestic political opponents that they won’t be permitted to “rock the boat,” and he has continued the policy of his tough predecessor, Vladimir Putin, in sanctioning the violent dispersal of anti-government protests. Opposition activists have been beaten and imprisoned under their rule. Putin, who wields greater power despite holding lower rank, warned demonstrators in a September newspaper interview that “you will be beaten upside the head with a truncheon. And that’s it.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Mubarakism Without Mubarak, Or Arab ‘Paradigm Shift’

It was the aftermath of the “Romanian revolution.” The dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, was gone and democracy had won. In Bucharest, I asked my Tatar guide what exactly had changed in his country after the “paradigm shift.”

“Simple,” he explained. “It’s like lunch time at our factories. Groups of workers have their lunch, one group at 11, and as they finish the next group start eating at 11:30, and another at noon, and another at 12:30. Now, the Romanian clock shows 12:00. Ceausescu finished his lunch. Now it’s time for the next group ‘to enjoy lunch.’“ That was the Romanian “paradigm shift.”

Turkey had its “lunch break shift” about a decade ago when the Turks democratically chose to replace secular tutelage with an Islamist one. And these days it’s time for a “lunch break shift” in the Arab world.

Last weekend, I was too distracted from the “Arab spring” on a wonderful musical journey of a million notes, from Aptaliko to Athinais, when I received a letter from my colleague and friend, Ümit Enginsoy. No, we don’t normally discuss politics by an exchange of letters. We do that while “we drink until we cough it out.” Now I am leaving the floor to Ümit:

“Dear Burak,

“I really have difficulty in understanding why the Turkish and Western media are euphorically describing the recent events in Egypt as a movement toward democracy. Actually, what we see is a coup. Remember the fateful night of Feb. 11, when Egypt’s strongman, Hosni Mubarak, eventually stepped down ‘after being persuaded by the Army and aided by the Americans,’ but only after ceding his powers to the country’s powerful military. Since then, the head of state has effectively been a soldier with the unfeasible rank of ‘field marshal,’ Mohamad Hussein Tantawi, the head of the military council.

“Formerly known as ‘Mubarak’s poodle’ because of his loyalty to the ex-dictator, this 75-year-old man is known for his conservatism. This was a bloodless military takeover, or a bloodless coup. But the Egyptian people and most of the world were so much fixated with Mubarak’s exit that no one paid too much attention to who the replacement was.

“Egypt has effectively been a military regime since a coup in 1952, led by General Gamal Abdel Nasser. All successive leaders have also been generals, Anwar Sadat, Mubarak and now Tantawi. Because of the 32-year-old peace treaty with Israel, the Egyptian military has no natural enemies, but is mainly tasked with ‘protecting Egypt’s domestic stability.’ Since Sadat expelled thousands of advisors from the now-defunct Soviet Union, the country’s former mentor and protector, the Egyptian military has had very close ties with the United States and uses sophisticated U.S. weaponry, including the locally assembled Abram tanks and F-16 fighter aircraft [even Turkey in the 1990s assembled 46 F-16s for the Egyptian Air Force as a reward for Ankara’s partial assistance to the U.S.-led coalition against Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War].

“The military leadership and especially Tantawi are arch-enemies of the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest and best-organized political group in Egypt. Because of the 1981 assassination of former president Sadat by fundamentalists within the military and the 1997 massacre, again by Islamic fundamentalists of 62 people at the top-tourism site of Luxor, the joint Mubarak-military regime had kept the Muslim Brotherhood under strong pressure. The new Egyptian regime may be involved in quasi-reform talks with ‘reasonable and acceptable’ Islamists, but I expect it to prevent the Brotherhood from entering elections or joining a future government. Aware of this situation, the Brotherhood is keeping a low profile so as not to provoke the military and annoy the Americans. So they are performing taqiyya [dissimulation].

“In addition, the Egyptian Army is different from Western militaries in the sense that its business and industrial activities account for more than 10 percent of the nation’s economy. The military ‘runs daycare centers and beach resorts. Its divisions make television sets, jeeps, washing machines, wooden furniture, olive oil and bottled water… The military pays no taxes on this vast web of businesses… It buys public land on favorable terms and discloses nothing to parliament or anyone else,’ said The International Herald Tribune on Feb. 18. It has been this way for decades, but additionally, now the military officially has taken over Egypt from Mubarak. This is ‘Mubarakism without Mubarak.’

“This brilliant phrase originally was used by Ellis Goldberg, a professor of political science at the University of Washington, in an article that appeared in the website of Foreign Affairs in mid-February. ‘Today, the Army presents itself as a force of order and a neutral arbiter between contending opponents, but it has significant interests of its own to defend, and it is not, in fact, neutral,’ Goldberg said. ‘Likely is the culmination of the slow-motion coup and the return of the somewhat austere military authoritarianism of decades past,’ he said.

“The U.S. policy on Egypt is pragmatic, realist and hypocritical. While it calls for democracy and ‘the fulfillment of the wishes of the Egyptian people,’ its truly key strategic objectives for Egypt are to avoid the abrogation of the 1979 Peace Treaty with Israel and to prevent Egypt’s transformation into something like Iran. And the ‘Mubarakism-without-Mubarak’ regime meets Washington’s requirements. So far the situation in Egypt remains under some degree of control, but much will depend on whether anti-governments protests will continue and how the military responds to them.

“The rest of the Arab world is also boiling. The Yemenite regime, a close ally of the United States in the fight against al-Qaeda, is shaking. More significant is the case of the tiny Gulf state of Bahrain, where the United States’ 5th Fleet — which will be the key force fighting against Iran in the event of a conflict — is based. There, the protesters, most of them Shiites — who form 70 percent of Bahrain’s population — are being brutally attacked by the security forces of the minority Sunni regime. Iran seems to be backing the Shiite protesters, and the Sunni regime is using the Saudi and Pakistani troops it employs in its security forces to suppress the demonstrators. Saudi Arabia, which has a significant Shiite minority, as well as Jordan, are in jitters.

“About the future of Egypt and the Middle East, your guess is as good as mine. But the genie seems to be out of the bottle, and it is not a genie of democracy, but a genie of strategic conflict. And unfortunately the casualties of the Arab uprising seem to be the pawns in this war. Maybe we should talk more about the potential ‘paradigm shift’ in the Arab lands more than about an Arab revolution.”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Murder a Fact of Life for Women in Turkey

With nearly a thousand women murdered in Turkey in 2009 according to new data from the Justice Ministry, the country has witnessed a drastic increase since 66 women were murdered in 2002. ‘The reason behind violence against women is the imbalance of power in society,’ an activist says

Ayse Pasali (R), who was allegedly shot to death by her ex-husband, unsuccessfully sought official protection due to her husband’s alleged physical abuse and threats to kill her.

The number of women murdered in a year in Turkey shot up 1,400 percent between 2002 and 2009, according to data recently revealed by the country’s justice minister.

Some 66 women were murdered in Turkey in 2002, but the numbers have been steadily increasing since then, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said in response to a parliamentary question from Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, Van Deputy Fatma Kurtalan.

Eighty-three women were murdered in 2003, 164 in 2004, 317 in 2005, 663 in 2006, 1,011 in 2007, 806 in 2008 and 953 during the first seven months of 2009, the last date for which data was available, according to Ergin.

For Professor Aysel Çelikel, head of the Support for Contemporary Living Association, or ÇYDD, the high increase in the number of murdered women stems from gender inequality and Turkey’s increasingly conservative society.

“Women’s rights are going backward as much as conservatism is increasing in society,” Çelikel told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Sunday.

There is a direct correlation between the increase in the inequality between the genders and the increased level of violence men commit against women, she said.

“According to international reports, the reason behind violence against women is the imbalance of power and the inequality between men and women in society,” Çelikel said.

The only way to solve the problem of such violence is to ensure gender equality, Çelikel said.

“Changing the roles and attitudes of men and women within the family and society while also strengthening the role of women is the only solution in defeating violence against women,” the professor said.

“From 2002 to July 2009, a total of 12,678 cases were opened because of violence and murders,” Ergin told Parliament. “Some 15,564 people were tried in those cases, and 6,736 were sentenced. In those cases, 1,869 people were acquitted and 794 people were given parole.”

Nearly half of Turkish women experience violence

According to a government study titled “Research on Domestic Violence against Women in Turkey,” 41.9 percent of Turkish women are subjected to physical and sexual violence. Women at a “low-income level” are assaulted at a rate of 49.9 percent, while the number for higher-income women is still high, at 28.7 percent.

Some 55.8 percent of women who have no education or have not finished primary education are subjected to violence, while 27.2 percent of women with at least a high school diploma or higher are the victims, the study said.

Some 48.5 percent of women experience some form of violence but do not disclose their victimization, the study said, adding that women with a lower income (54.1 percent) were more likely to stay silent about being assaulted than women with more education (37.5 percent).

Some 23.4 percent of women have been forced by men to quit their jobs or have been prevented from working; in the lower-income category, this figure is 21.5 percent while it is 21.2 percent for those with higher incomes.

Altogether, 33.7 percent of women said they considered suicide as a solution to their problems. For those with less education, this number is 34.1 percent, while 37.6 of higher educated women have also considered taking their own lives.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: King Abdullah Announces Aid to Population

(ANSAmed) — RIYADH, FEBRUARY 23 — King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has today announced a series of measures to help the population, such as housing subsidies and scholarships for students, while getting ready to return to his country after a three-month absence due to medical reasons. Reports were on state-run TV. During the 86-year-old king’s absence, who initially went to New York for surgery and then spent his convalescence in Casablanca, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, a close ally of Saudi Arabia, was forced to resign on February after a popular uprising, and also Tunisia’s president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted and took refuge in Saudi Arabia on January 14.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: King Abdullah Distributes Benefits

(AGI) Riyadh — On his return from convalescence in Morocco, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia announced a series of benefits.

These included housing, foreign study bursary and social security benefits. He also pardoned a number of prisoners.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Thousands of Kurds Protest in Sulaimaniyah

(AGI) Sulaimaniyah — Protests continue in Kurdistan, where 4,000 people gathered in Sulaimaniyah calling for reform. three people have already died in recent riots. Today, 4,000 protesters gathered in the centre of the city calling for reforms and bearing posters with the words, “Do not forget Hosni Mubarak” .

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Tiny Bahrain Poses Big Headache for the West

The Arab revolution has reached the tiny Gulf state of Bahrain, where Sunni rulers control a majority Shiite population. Western nations are following the protests with concern: If the unrest spreads to the Shiite minority in neighboring Saudi Arabia, it could affect the world’s most important oil-producing region.

When German state governors, former chancellors or cabinet ministers visit the emirates and kingdoms along the Persian Gulf, the ambassadors in the respective countries like to say: “We are living in the eye of the hurricane here.” The states are seen as an oasis of stability, surrounded by rogue regimes and failed states.

Or rather, they were. As of last week, even the Gulf nations are no longer as calm as they used to be. Following the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, as well as popular protests in Libya, Jordan and Yemen, the sea change in the Arab world has now reached the sheikhs.

Tanks have been out on the streets of Manama, the capital of Bahrain. The city had been due to host two rounds of the GP2 Asia Series car race — one last weekend, and one as part of the Formula One Grand Prix weekend from Mar. 11-13 — but both have been cancelled.

Hence the sound of engines roaring through the city’s financial district in the early morning hours on Thursday did not come from race cars, but from heavy diesel-powered trucks carrying police riot squads. Their destination was the capital’s Pearl Square, where a few dozen tents had been set up beneath a 90-meter (295-foot) monument to Bahrain’s pearl divers.

A Fear of Open Spaces

The roundabout is relatively small, as public plazas go. And only a few hundred people had been protesting there since Tuesday of last week, waving Bahrain’s red-and-white flag and demanding more democracy. It was a relatively small demonstration.

But the regimes in the Arab world have developed a fear of squares and plazas. A political agoraphobia, if you will, has spread among the region’s autocratic rulers, who are convinced that those who tolerate occupied squares will end up like former presidents Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia or Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, who were both recently topped by popular protests in their countries.

At least four people died, including a seven-year-old girl, when police stormed the tent city at 3 a.m.

The protesters had hoped that the roundabout surrounding the Pearl Monument would become Bahrain’s version of Tahrir Square in Cairo. But now the events there are more reminiscent of what happened in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989. Within a few hours, what had been a tolerated forum for demonstrators seeking more democracy had turned into a monument of mourning, as the tiny country of 1.23 million became the latest combustion point in the Arab revolution. The situation in Bahrain clearly poses a potential threat to the region — and to the West’s oil supply.

Plans to Free Political Prisoners

Following a demand from protest leaders that they would not enter into any talks until troops had been pulled back, the government withdrew the military from the streets of Manama on Saturday, followed by the police. The move allowed thousands of protesters to return to the Pearl Square roundabout. They remained there through the night, with supplies of food and electricity allowed through.

On Monday, the authorities arranged a counter-protest, with thousands of pro-government demonstrators gathering outside the Al Fateh mosque in Manama to support the monarchy. It was also announced that the Formula One Grand Prix due to be held in Bahrain in March had been called off by the crown prince. And in a bid to appease the protesters — who were already preparing for another big demonstration on Tuesday — the king of Bahrain announced plans to free some of the country’s political prisoners.

A senior opposition figure was also set to return to Bahrain on Tuesday. Hassan Mushaima, leader of the Haq movement, revealed on his Facebook page that he wanted to test if the government was serious about its offer of talks or if he would be arrested upon his return from exile in London.

The First Domino in the Line

Bahrain is not Egypt. The island nation has a smaller population than Munich, and more than half of its inhabitants are foreigners. Why, then, should the world care about this small country and its problems?

It shouldn’t, except for the fact that the world is dependent on oil, and the fact that two regional powers, Iran and Saudi Arabia, are both seeking to exert influence in Bahrain. The country is a domino at the very front of a line. The geopolitical consequences of a collapse of the regime in Manama would extend well beyond the region.

“We were sleeping,” says Umm Yussuf, a 26-year-old bank employee and blogger. “Someone said: Now they’re coming. We took the children to the big tent. Then everything got really loud, there was smoke everywhere and it was hard to breathe.”

Yussuf is sitting in front of the entrance to the city’s Salmaniya hospital. The bodies of three people are laid out in the hospital morgue: A 53-year-old man with 91 pellets in his side, a 55-year-old man with a cracked skull and a 20-year-old with 200 pellets in his chest and arms.

“Pellet guns are used to kill dogs, not people. What kind of a government does such a thing?” Yussuf asks. He says that they were foreign police officers, from Yemen, India and Pakistan. “They have no scruples. They shoot and don’t ask questions.”

Two paramedics, Yassir Ali and Jamil Abdullah, show us their injuries. One has a broken arm and the other has a black eye. They say the police dragged them out of the hospital, tied them up and beat them. “We were not allowed to rescue the injured,” they say…

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


Beer to be Classified as Alcohol for First Time in Russia

The beverage is technically classified as a foodstuff for now, an anomaly that has allowed producers to avoid a sweeping new crackdown on alcohol advertising and night-time sales.

But a new Kremlin-backed bill that passed its first reading in the lower house of the Russian parliament on Tuesday will abolish beer’s special status, dragging Russian alcohol regulation into the 21st century. “Normalising the beer production market and classifying it as alcohol is totally the right thing to do and will boost the health of our population,” Yevgeny Bryun, the ministry of health’s chief specialist on alcohol and drug abuse, said.

“We have been talking about and have wanted such a measure for ages. I take my hat off to the parliament.”

The new law would restrict beer sales at night, ban its sale in or close to many public places such as schools, and limit cans and bottles to a maximum size of 0.33 litres.

Although vodka, the national tipple, remains extremely popular, Russia’s beer consumption has more than tripled in the past 15 years, boosted by low prices, ready availability and lax regulation. Industry sources say Russia is now the third or the fourth biggest beer market in the world by net consumption after China and the United States. But with a historic penchant for strong spirits such as vodka, many ordinary Russians regard beer as a soft drink. It is not uncommon to see men swigging a can of beer on their way to work or teenagers downing a swift lunchtime beer or two in the park. The Kremlin is concerned that alcoholism and under age drinking in particular have taken on epidemic proportions however. Regularly rated among the heaviest five drinkers in the world, the Kremlin estimates that Russians consume 32 pints of pure alcohol per capita per year, more than double the World Health Organisation’s recommended maximum. This appears to have seriously dented population growth.

Russia’s population fell by 6.4 million between 1991 and 2009 and the federal statistics agency has predicted that it could fall to less than 127 million from just under 142 million now by 2031 in a worst-case scenario.

Meanwhile, Russian officials estimate that 500,000 people die for alcohol-related reasons every year, a state of affairs that has prompted President Dmitry Medvedev to declare the country’s drinking problem “a national disaster”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Russian Envoy Calls for Tourism to be Stopped in Caucasus Resort

Security has been heightened since the Friday night shoot-out and a spate of other attacks in the mainly Muslim North Caucasus, where Moscow is trying to quell an Islamist insurgency.

“We must stop receiving tourists,” Alexander Khloponin was reported by state-run news agency Itar-TASS as telling officials in the town of Tyrnyauz on the main road leading to Mount Elbrus, Europe’s highest peak, which was open for holidaymakers on Monday. The violence has shocked ordinary Russians and officials alike who see Elbrus as an oasis of calm in the North Caucasus. On the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office website, the Russian Federation travel summary said: “We warn travellers against all but essential travel to North Ossetia, Karachai-Cherkessia and Kabardino-Balkaria (including the Elbrus area). “There is a high level of threat from terrorism. Attacks cannot be ruled out and could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. Attacks have occurred most frequently in Moscow and in the North Caucasus.” The UK-based adventure company Alternative Adventure, which organises an average of five climbs per year of Mount Elbrus, remains cautiously optimistic about its planned expeditions later in the year. Director Gavin Bate said: “I am travelling to Russia shortly to meet with our Russia office and to assess the latest developments. “We hope this will be an isolated incident which will not affect our Elbrus climbs later in the year, but obviously we would not run trips to an area which we deem to be unsafe.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Far East

Beijing Organising Exodus of 33,000 Chinese From Libya, Taiwanese Too

Aircraft, cargo ships and fishing boats are moving towards Libya to evacuate Chinese nationals living in the North African country. Tunisian, Turkish and other workers are fleeing the country as well.

Tripoli (AsiaNews/Agencies) — China will send a jet, ships and fishing vessels from nearby waters to evacuate some 33,000 Chinese nationals working in violence-torn Libya. The government has set up an emergency unit headed by Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang to coordinate the repatriation of mainlanders, as well as people from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The State Council (cabinet) “decided to immediately deploy chartered civil aircraft, COSCO cargo ships in nearby waters, and Chinese fishing vessels carrying needed living and medical supplies”, the Ministry said.

China will also lease “nearby large-scale passenger cruise ships and buses” to help in the evacuation effort.

A spokesman for China’s Embassy in Libya said dozens of Chinese citizens have been injured since the unrest broke out about a week ago, and 15 of them are now in hospital.

Beijing has also called on Tripoli to ensure the safety of its nationals after hundreds of construction workers in eastern Libya were attacked, robbed and forced to escape on foot towards Tripoli.

“China has made urgent representations to the Libyan side, requiring it to conduct investigations [into the attacks] and bring the perpetrators to justice,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said.

The Chinese are not the only foreigners fleeing the country. Thousands of Tunisians are crossing the border into Tunisia, whilst 3,000 Turks are waiting to be evacuated.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

China: Italian Shoemakers Eye Strong Export Demand

Rome, 22 Feb. (AKI) — Thirty-five quality Italian shoemakers are aiming to cash in on a booming export market to China and to clinch lucrative deals with local buyers the at the ‘Shoes from Italy’ trade fair in Beijing this week.

The shoe manufacters are mainly from the central Marche and Tuscany regions, the northern Veneto and the southern Campania region. They travelled to the Chinese capital to present their autumn/winter 2011-2012 collections.

They companies include the Florence-based men’s shoemaker Pakerson, as well as many less well-known firms who make shoes for top labels such as the Mariella Burani fashion group.

China in 2010 surpassed Japan to become world’s second-largest economy.

“The institute’s initiative aimed to showcase the latest trends in Italian shoe design and to support companies who are trying to sell their goods in Asia for the first time,” said the president of Italy’s foreign trade institute, Umberto Vattani.

Shoe exports to China surged 46.6 percent in 2010 from 2009 and grew 11.6 percent worldwide between January and November 2010, Vattani said.

Eleven Italian leatherwear companies are taking part in the two-day Arts & Tannery fair which opened in New York on Tuesday at Manhattan’s upscale Midtown Loft & Terrace venue. The leatherwear makers will present samples from their new collections to top US stylists and fashion journalists.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Egypt and the Fears of Beijing: A Revolution in China is Inevitable

One of the major Chinese dissidents analyzes the behaviour of the Chinese Communist Party — which censors and minimizes reports of the wave of democracy in Arab countries — and draws a comparison between those peoples and the Chinese. By now, he says, “only those who speak for the people are heard. And in China the stage is set for a new popular uprising. “

Washington (AsiaNews) — As everyone is paying attention to the democratic wave in the Arabic countries, a common topic is the impact this democratic wave may have on China. Not only are the Chinese people discussing it; the foreign commentators have the same concern. While trying hard to block the news, the Chinese Communist regime is releasing antagonistic propaganda as well. Titles are often “China is not Egypt”, etc. The Communist Party talks loud about the differences between China and Egypt, hoping to prove that the democratic tide in Egypt would not happen in China. If so, why does the regime block the Egyptian news in both the traditional media and the Internet? Why doesn’t it allow the Netizens to talk about the democratic revolution in Egypt? It is really a clumsy denial resulting in self-exposure.

When various factors accumulate to a critical state, a revolution will occur in variety of ways for a variety of reasons. Revolution should not have to be defined in any specific way for any specific reason after all. Saying that China is not Egypt is pure rubbish, just like claiming that bread is not the same as rice. However, when there is the need for food, both bread and rice will serve the purpose. For revolution, various ways and reasons have their own possibilities. All these people want to achieve is their purpose and freedom, instead of academic study of history. After all, history is composed of various purposes, some that have been achieved and some that have not. That history cannot say that one purpose will or will not work today.

Egypt and the Arab countries are societies controlled by social groups which are very religious. There, religion has always been an important factor for social movement, and plays a central role in attracting the masses. Under the shell of religion, it contains various political goals. This is the complexity of Arab society.

Chinese society is no different. All sorts of emerging political goals wrapped with traditional ideologies are propagated in the masses, resulting in reform or revolution at a proper time. This model of putting new wine in old bottles has been around since ancient times, and it is the most effective way with minimal investment for propagating the idea of revolution. This approach is quietly rising in China now, which is an important signal that China is approaching its revolution.

In China, the democratic concepts spread from the West have already received popular support. Even in internal fights within the Communist Party, each faction uses the concept of democracy to win a commanding point. However, this hope of all the people is not yet as strong as the essentials of living, such as salt and rice. Historically, a new social system could only become an unshakable idea after many years of success. Before that success, it will be wrapped in an old ideology to be propagated and fermented, until it gradually breaks the ideological foundations of the old system, and builds legitimacy for an emerging new society.

In China today, the most obvious form of this phenomenon is the so-called “New Mao Left”. Their latest development a few days ago was a recommendation letter to the Chinese Communist Party by “the Association of Yan’An Children”. The language used in that letter is in the stereotypical Communist Party style which nowadays people are not so familiar with and surely will make many people uncomfortable. As soon as one reads the letter, it is obvious that the suggestions are also insignificant and impossible to implement. Almost all the comments I have read were laughing at it, as if the letter was written by a bunch of daydreaming fools. To the least the writers seem outdated.

However, if you look at the contents of the letter carefully rather than its format, or if you treat it as publicity and a public opinion, then it is really worth reading. It comes straight to the point that the focus of contemporary social conflict is exactly due to social injustice and the disparity between the rich and poor. It also specifically points out without uncertainty the responsibility of the Communist Party for these problems. It further analyzes that the reason for this result is undemocratic and the solution is to promote democracy. The reason for promoting democracy is the so-called traditional “mass line” that was promoted by the early Communist Party, rather than “elites ruling the country” that has been advocated for many years now.

Although it did not say that openly, this letter implies dictated elitism or democracy by the elites are failed models, and are the culprits causing the situation in China today. This expression is exactly the mainstream theory of the modern Chinese democracy movement, as well as the inspiration the Chinese people have taken from the Arabic democratic wave. After the democratic waves of the 1970’s and 1980’s in China, various authoritarian regimes have learned to buy out the elite by sharing the interests of the dictatorship. The most typical is Jiang Zemin’s inclusion of the elite in the “three representatives”. The Chinese Communist Party bought a large number of elite, a tiny minority of the population, to share the interests of despotism and to channel them into the vested interests group. This successfully approach of paying little price with high efficiency, has long been proved as effective by China’s traditional authoritarian system.

In the wave of Arabic democratic movements, the democratic elite touted by Westerners almost did not play any positive role. This revelation itself proves that the “China model” of buying out the elite is indeed very successful. Rather, it is little known young people and religious forces that dominate this revolution. A simple truth by the ancient Chinese is “Before the ashes in the pits turned cold, there came the chaos in Shandong. After all, both Liu and Xiang were not intellectuals”. In these two lines of the poem of the Tang Dynasty, “the ashes in the pits” refers to the “Burning of the Books” by Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China; while “Liu and Xiang” refer specifically to the most well known uprising leaders who ended the Qin Dynasty, as well as uprising leaders in general.

Under the premise of intense social contradictions, the whole society has the need to resolve the conflict back to normal. This need is the driving force of revolution. We must find a way to release that dynamic force. Of course, the best would be for the intellectual elite to lead the revolution, but this is only the best in theory. When the intellectuals are bought out and unable to function, the dynamic force will seek other ways to release itself, and will not give up until it reaches its goal. This is the pattern exhibited in Egypt and the other Arabic countries.

In China, it is also the reason that the “mass line” comes to the stage again, after years of incompetence by elite opposition. Since international society is already bought out by the money of the tyranny, the importance of the mass line becomes even more apparent. When peaceful demonstrations have already been proven ineffective, violent revolution and a coup become the leftover choices. In recent years, a lot of political groups holding the banner of “Mao’s Leftists” pleading for the people have emerged in China. They are the new and developing opposition groups.

This type of opposition, new wine put in old bottles, is a bit like that of the religious groups in the Muslim countries. These groups are the real opposition, the new wine put in old bottles type of revolutionaries. Just like the Protestant opposition in the democratic waves in Europe, they are promoters of democracy. In the situation when the old wine put in new bottles kind of elite democrats failed, these new and developing oppositions will bring the new breakthroughs for a people’s revolution.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

North Korea: First Public Protests Against the Kims’ Regime

For the first time ever, small groups of North Koreans protested in public against Pyongyang’s Stalinist government. For the first time also, no one betrayed them. Fear of the “third” Kim is stronger than all else.

Seoul (AsiaNews) — The wave of protests that began in the Mideast appears to have reached even North Korea. For the first time in the history of the Stalinist regime, groups of ordinary citizens have protested in three cities demanding food and electricity, sources say. The event is exceptional and confirms the economic difficulties, especially concerning food supplies, people have to face under the Communist government.

According to South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper, citing a North Korean source, demonstrations broke out on 14 February, two days before Kim Jong-il’s birthday, in the cities of Jongju, Yongchon and Sonchon, not far from the border of China.

The State Security Department (the all-powerful agency under Kim Jong-il’s direct control) investigated the incident but failed to identify the people who started the commotion when they met with a wall of silence.

“When such an incident took place in the past, people used to report their neighbours to the security forces, but now they’re covering for each other,” the source said.

Korean sources told AsiaNews that this represents a crack in the prevailing mindset. “Different factors are at play. On the one hand, the country’s worsening economic situation is certainly one reason. The regime is in fact unable to feed most of its people. On the other, changes at the top are another as Kim Jong-un gets ready to succeed his father on the throne in Pyongyang.”

The younger Kim is “feared by the population,” the source said. “He is viewed as bloodthirsty and mad. “Almost everyone thinks he was behind the military attacks against ROKS Cheonan and an island under South Korean control, which led to restrictions on humanitarian aid from the South. This has further worsened standards of living in the North. North Koreans are ready to do just about anything to stop the succession.”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Senegal Freezes Relations With Iran Over Arms Trading

(AGI) Dakar — Senegal is putting diplomatic relations with Iran on hold, alledign Tehran’s support for Nigeria’s Casamance rebels. News of the announcement was provided by Senagal’s foreign minister. “Senegal has decided to suspend diplomatic relations with the Iranian Republic. We are outraged at learning that Iranian bullets have killed Senegalese soldiers,” an official statement said today. The incident referred to by the Senegalese government involved the killing of 16 Senegalese soldiers in December by rebels equipped with “sophisticated weapons.” . .

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Somali Pirates May Face Trial in U.S.

The Somali pirates arrested after the killing of four Americans on board their luxury yacht could face the death penalty if they stand trial in the U.S.

The 15 men are accused of killing Jean and Scott Adam, from California, and Phyllis Macay and Robert Riggle, from Seattle, when gunfire erupted aboard the Quest.

The pirates are currently being held on the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, which is in the waters off East Africa.

The U.S. military, FBI and Justice Department are working on the next steps for the suspects, said Bob Prucha, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command in Florida. He wouldn’t confirm whether the FBI had yet interviewed them.

When contacted by MailOnline, the Justice Department refused to comment on the case while decisions are made.

But a source has told the New York Post that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York is campaigning to hold the trial, citing its recent success with the case of Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse.

Last week a New York judge sentenced the Somalian to 33 years in jail for the 2009 hijacking of the Maersk Alabama. He was the only survivor of the pirate crew.

The other most likely contenders to hold the trial are the Eastern District of Virginia, the Central District of California and the Western District of Washington.

Virginia convicted five Somalians in November 2010 after they attacked the USS Nicholas. They will be sentenced in March and are expected to be handed mandatory life sentences.

California may be chosen as it was the home of two of the victims, Mr and Mrs Adam.

Likewise, Washington could be chosen as Miss Macay and Mr Riggle hailed from Seattle.

The federal death penalty can be enacted in any state or territory of the U.S., even in states that do not have the death penalty.

If the pirates are charged with kidnapping and murder, they could face the death penalty. However, charges are yet to be brought against the men…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Brazil: Lula Accused of Administrative Impropriety

(AGI)Brazil- Brazil’s fomer president Lula has been targeted by Public Prosecutor’s Office for alleged administrative impropriety. Lula risks seeing all his assets frozen, as federal attorneys have asked the courts to open an investigation into his actions, as well as those of former Interior Minister Amir Lando, due to their suspected use of public assets for personal gain between October and December 2004.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


Dozens of Tunisians Intercepted Off Lampedusa as Migrant Influx Continues

(AKI) — An Italian fishing boat rescued 38 Tunisian migrants early on Wednesday in rough seas off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa near Sicily. The migrants were taken to Lampedusa, which has received nearly 6,000 migrants since a popular revolt ousted Tunisia’s longtime leader in mid-January.

Several dozen Tunisians managed to land Tuesday on Lampedusa after a brief lull in arrivals last week. Italian officials fear the numbers will rise further and could be swelled by a influx of migrants from Libya if anarchy grips the North African country.

Over 300 migrants were on Tuesday flown from Lampedusa to other detention centres in a bid to ease overcrowding at the island’s detention centre, where almost 1,000 migrants are currently being held in buildings designed to hold a maximum of 800 people.

The European Union is ready to boost its borders agency’s emergency mission sent on Sunday to help Italy deal with the tide of illegal migrants crossing from North Africa, officials in Brussels said on Tuesday.

“We are making sure we have a Frontex mission in the area, we are ready to extend the mission if need be,” European Commission spokesman Michele Cercone told journalists in Brussels

Italy sounded the alarm in early February after the collapse of ousted president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s rule triggered a surge in the number of migrants. It has asked the EU for 100 million euros to help tackle the emergency.

The declaration comes after Libya’s leader, Muammer Gaddafi, warned that he would allow thousands of migrants to pass through his country on the way to Europe if the EU sided with opponents of his embattled rule.

During his last visit to the Italian capital Rome last August, Gaddafi urged the EU to give 7 billion dollars annually to curb the flow of African migrants.

“Of course, the situation in Libya is worrying …. It’s not possible to know what is happening at this stage, and it’s even more difficult to guess what will happen,” Cercone said.

The Frontex mission already boasts 30 experts in migration issues from Belgium, Austria, France, Germany, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland and Spain, he said.

The mission also has two Italian patrol boats, four aircraft from Italy, France, Germany and the Netherlands, and two helicopters from Malta and Spain. The mission’s initial budget is 2 million euros, Cercone said.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

E. U. Agency Expects Up to 1. 5 Million Immigrants

(AGI) Brussels — The EU border agency Frontex says uprisings in North Africa may lead up to between 500,000 and 1.5 million immigrants to seeks refuge here, traveling mainly to Italy, Malta and Greece. Sources in Brussels believe “this will be people of sub-Saharan origin working in Libya and in North Africa”.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

EU to Help Italy With North African Migration ‘When Necessary’

(AGI) Brussels — Commission spokesman Olivier Bailli today said the EU will respond to heightened migration from North Africa.

The spokesman clarified that such a response “will be set in place” as soon “an actual rise in migrant numbers” occurs.

Bailli also submitted that figures supporting the Italian government’s concerns are as yet unavailable.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Italy Asks Europe to Take Control of Migrant Crisis

Frattini says EU must step up a gear amid Libya bloodshed

(see related stories on site) (ANSA) — Rome, February 23 — The European Union must step up a gear and take control of migrants fleeing crisis-hit North Africa, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Wednesday amid ongoing bloodshed in Libya.

“It’s time for Europe to take over the coordination and management of eventual migratory flows,” Frattini told the Senate, having said earlier in the day that estimates 200-300,000 migrants could leave Libya were “conservative”.

“Italy and other countries cannot face this alone. Europe must change pace”.

Some 10,000 people are feared to have been killed in the revolt against Muammar Gaddafi’s 40-year rule in Libya with 50,000 wounded, according to the reports on Wednesday.

Around 6,300 mostly Tunisian migrants have arrived in Italy since the start of a string of revolts in North Africa and the Middle East that has toppled regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. Frattini reiterated Italy’s condemnation of the violence in Libya.

“Every limit has been crossed regarding the acceptability of behaviour that is offending basic human rights,” he said.

“We demand an immediate stop to the violence to (make it possible to) open dialogue with the opposition and listen to the voice of the people”.

Two Italian navy ships were heading for Libya Wednesday to provide support for the evacuation of some 6,000 Italians there, including 50 tourists on a desert holiday.

Frattini added that Italy was willing to organise a humanitarian operation to provide medical aid to the Benghazi and Misurata areas.


Interior ministers from Italy, France, Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Malta, meanwhile, will ask for a special ‘solidarity fund’ to tackle the North African migrant emergency from their European Union counterparts in Brussels Thursday, Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said after a Rome summit of the ‘Med Six’ Wednesday.

Maroni said the vast majority of the migrants to have arrived in Italy, those who had not asked for asylum, would be repatriated as soon as possible.

“Only a few have filed applications for asylum; those who have not done so will be kept (in holding centres) until we get the all-clear to repatriate them,” he said.

Maroni added that he had asked prefects across Italy for facilities to hold migrants.

“We are getting ready to take the brunt. We can do it, but not for long. The European Union must help us”.

Italy can keep migrants for up to six months in holding centres and there is an EU directive allowing their detention for up to 18 months, Maroni noted. As for repatriation, he said bilateral accords with Tunisia and the other countries on the Mediterranean’s southern rim would be “fundamental”.

“The accord with Egypt is still working well (but) the one with Tunisia is more complicated: the processes for identification are slow and they have set low numbers for repatriation but tomorrow there will be a meeting at the (Italian) premier’s office Chigi to ask the new Tunisian government to renegotiate the accords”.

All the Tunisians in Italy have been identified and Italy is waiting for the green light from Tunis to send them back.

“Of course, if they say they can only take three a day it’ll be a problem”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: UNHCR: Fears for Asylum Seekers and Refugees

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 22 — The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has expressed its concern over the situation ongoing in Libya, and in particular over “the dangers faced by civilians and, in particular, asylum seekers and refugees, many of whom could find themselves caught up in the spiral of violence”.

Currently, a statement says, UNHCR “is unable to reach the community of refugees. In the last few months, the UN agency has attempted to regularise its presence in Libya, and this has limited its work”.

Before the latest trouble, UNHCR says, the agency had registered over 8,000 refugees in Libya, while 3,000 asylum seekers were awaiting a decision on their status. The principal countries of origin are the Palestinian Territories, Sudan, Iraq, Eritrea, Somalia and Chad.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Risk of 200-300 Thousand Immigrants on Italy Shores

(AGI)Rome- There might be 200-300 thousand immigrants and refugees arriving in Italy in the near future to flee the Libyan crisis. The estimate was made during a meeting between Prime Minister Berlusconi and his staff in Chigi Palace.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Minister Tightens Up Asylum Procedure

THE HAGUE, 23/02/11 — Asylum-seekers will in future be told more quickly whether they have a chance of residing in the Netherlands. Additionally, the fees for asylum lawyers will be pruned, according to a policy memorandum sent by Immigration and Integration Minister Gerd Leers to parliament yesterday.

Leers says he remains completely open to genuine refugees. But “we have people sitting here who have already been in procedures for 10, 12 or even 20 years. We really have to put a stop to this.”

The Christian democratic (CDA) minister wants to put a stop to the dragging out of procedures. “There are too many incentives that support carrying on with procedures, even if this is not useful.” At the same time, there are too few incentives to encourage departure to the country of origin.

A first asylum application should include all grounds on the basis of which someone can be given asylum, in Leers’ view. In a follow-up application, it must be decided in one day whether new facts or circumstances are involved. Rejected asylum-seekers will then immediately be transferred to the Return and Departure Service.

The fee for lawyers who represent asylum-seekers is in for pruning. Lawyers will receive little or no compensation any more for a follow-up application which does not include new facts and circumstances. Currently, they do receive a fee for this and this means it is financially attractive for lawyers to carry on with procedures for ever, according to Leers.

Some 35,000 procedures are carried out per year, a cost item of 159 million euros. Accommodation costs 20,000 euros per year per asylum-seeker. Leers points out that a family of five that is in procedures for 10 years costs one million euros.

In 2007, nearly 28,000 rejected asylum-seekers received a residence permit after all in a general amnesty. As a result, many long-running procedures were ended at a blow. “But we are now feeding a new general pardon again,” warns Leers.

The minister blames his predecessors, including Labour (PvdA) State Secretary Nebahat Albayrak for not taking action. “Predecessors should have said much earlier: 18 years of procedures, this we are stopping.”

In January, Leers had already announced that asylum-seekers could no longer extend their stay in the Netherlands via an appeal against the rejection of a repeat asylum application. In such cases, they must await the handling of their case in their own country.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

UK: Nigerian Olaide Taiwo Stole 350 Ids to Claim £1.3m Benefits

A Nigerian immigrant stole the identities of 350 people to claim £1.3million in bogus tax credits in the largest benefit scam of its kind.

Olaide Taiwo, 35, hijacked the identities while working as a security guard for a number of large national companies.

He then used the names to claim tens of thousands in working tax credits.

This week he was jailed for eight and a half years — the highest ever sentence for tax credit fraud.

Taiwo is understood to have arrived illegally in Britain in 2003 with his wife. Although three applications to stay in the UK failed, in 2005 he was granted discretionary leave to remain.

It was during this period that his scam began. The father-of-two submitted more than 300 fraudulent tax credit claims between June 2004 and July 2008 worth over £1million.

When he was arrested, investigators found an ‘identity thieves’ paradise’, with stacks of fake passports and driving licences and £70,000 in cash lying around his council flat in Camberwell, South-East London.

The property was littered with paperwork detailing the names, addresses and national insurance numbers of hundreds of people which he had taken from employee payroll records at dozens of companies around London where he had worked as a security guard.

They also found templates for making false passports, birth certificates, NHS cards and driving licences.

Taiwo used the identities to open hundreds of bank accounts for the benefits to be paid into, but HM Revenue & Customs became suspicious about the multiple tax credit applications and arrested him in July 2008.

They believe he was the ringleader of an organised criminal network which included his sister-in-law who worked for a job centre.

But the rest of the gang are thought to have fled to Nigeria. Taiwo also tried to leave the country but he was arrested again on August 6 last year.

He was found guilty at Inner London Crown Court of fraudulently obtaining payments of tax credits, by using the names and addresses of individuals without their consent and acquiring criminal property.

Sentencing him, Judge Simon Davis ordered that he be deported at the end of his eight and a half year sentence.

He said: ‘This is a fraud on a substantial scale.

‘You lied and sought to manipulate with ease and confidence and with an arrogance that was astonishing.

‘You were intimately connected with every aspect of the fraud, stealing real details of real people to commit identity fraud on the large scale.’

Another member of the gang, Taiwo’s sister-in-law Olajumoke Ademuyiwa, 42, a Jobcentre Plus employee, was also found guilty of fraudulently obtaining tax credit payments in an earlier hearing.

Ademuyiwa opened the bank accounts into which the benefits were paid, but she is not thought to have used her role as a job centre worker to make false claims. Her husband, Oluyemi Amidu Taiwo — Taiwo’s brother — is thought to have fled the country. She is due to be sentenced in April.

Richard Young, senior investigating officer for HMRC said: ‘This pair blatantly hijacked the identities of over 350 innocent people and stole from British taxpayers by submitting over 300 fraudulent tax credit claims between June 2004 and July 2008.

‘They deliberately attacked and abused a system designed to provide financial help to the most vulnerable people in our society.’


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Boy, Aged 11, Arrested for Drawing Stick Figure With a Gun and Writing, ‘Teachers Must Die’

A boy of 11 was arrested for a school drawing of a stick figure with a gun pointed at four other figures with the words, ‘Teachers must die.’

Police hauled the youngster from his home in Arvada, Colorado, in handcuffs, took a mugshot, fingerprinted him and then put him in a cell.

The boy, who is being treated for Attention Deficit Disorder, faces a misdemeanour charge of interfering with staff and students.

Tim — not his real name — had been told by his therapist to draw pictures when he got upset, rather than disrupt class.

After doing the drawing in pencil, he felt calmer and threw it away, but a teacher picked it up and sent him to the principal’s office.

The school was aware of the boy’s medical condition and after deciding he was not a threat, notified his parents and sent him back to class.

But that night police arrived at his home and took him away, refusing to let his parents accompany him to the station.

His mother, who wished to remain anonymous, told Fox 31 News: ‘It was heart-wrenching to see my son, my 11-year-old, walk out the front door in handcuffs and get in the police car.

‘It was violently unfair to the little guy. It’s traumatic.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Ecclesiastic Court: Pornography as Grounds for Annulment

(AGI) Genoa — Pornography and homosexuality are among the possible reasons for annulment. Msgr. Paolo Rigon submitted this statement today while delilvering his speech on the occasion of the opening of the judicial year of the Ecclesiastic tribunal of Region Liguria. Msgr. Rigon remarked that pornography is rampant and it portrays man’s sexual life as sheer pleasure and fun. It is promoting a life style, he commented, that will make it difficult for anyone to either be faithful to one person through life or just believe in being faithful. As a consequence when deciding on an annulment case, it will be essential to understand whether the parties concerned were aware of their actions or whether instead.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

UK: Anger as Word ‘Marriage’ Vanishes From Birth Statistics

Married couples have disappeared from official family records for the first time.

In a further blow to the status of marriage, records of the number of women who become pregnant will no longer show how many were or were not married.

Instead, Government statisticians will publish the number of mothers-to-be who were in ‘a legal partnership’ at the time they conceived — which will include both marriages and women in civil partnerships.

Eight years ago Labour ministers ordered that the word ‘marriage’ should no longer be used on official documents because they said it led to discrimination against gays.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: It is Good Manners, Not Political Correctness, To Reject the Word ‘Kaffir’

For last week’s instalment of Channel 4’s Dispatches, Lessons in Hate and Violence, teachers and preachers at certain Muslim faith schools in the UK were filmed using the word “kaffir” frequently in reference to non-Muslims. In one interview, a young woman who had previously attended such a school expressed dejection at the fact that her teacher rebuked her for consorting with a “kaffira” — a young, white schoolfriend — when he spotted them outside the school.

Kaffir, an Arabic word meaning “disbeliever” or “rejecter”, is an active participle entailing action as opposed to a descriptive noun. In a religious sense it suggests volition, more so than the passive “atheist” or “non-believer”. The root of the word means “to cover” or conceal which adds another dimension of intent to the term; a rejecter of faith who has hidden or concealed the truth. In the Qur’an, Christians and Jews are referred to as “the faithful” — the term “kuffar” (an alternative spelling of “kaffir”) is reserved for those who deny God’s existence but it has sloppily become common vernacular for all non-Muslims.

It is one of those words that can be used in jest, hyperbolically mimicking zealous clerics eager to brand as many Muslims and non-Muslims as “kuffir” (as in, “I can see a strand of hair under your hijab, you kaffir”). Due to its frequent use in the Qur’an as a term referring to those who do not believe in God, it can also be taken to mean, in its most non-pejorative sense, purely, “one without faith”.

One of the Muslim religious leaders interviewed by Dispatches asserted that the word was offensive, and “othered” non-Muslims, thus standing in the way of integration. The problem with the term is that it originates in a religious and cultural discourse and thus it does not sound too dramatic to audiences in such contexts. In a secular framework it jars, possibly the same way using the word “heretic” or “infidel” in reference to non-Christians or those who have rejected Christian belief would do. In addition, the word has been appropriated and misused by a host of extremists where it has taken on more derogatory and sinister connotations. In fact, “takfiri” groups make it their business to indulge in exclusive interpretations of Islam that render the mainstream so narrow, that the majority of the practising Muslim world is branded errant. The word was then further hijacked by Islamophobes and neocons who pounced on it as Islamic parlance for a despised west.

As with most controversial terms, intent and audience are also paramount. Muslim extremists use the expression to describe even Jews and Christians, with an intent to demonise, marginalise and foster a mentality in which community spirit is deemed to be under siege. I have heard the word used in mosques in Saudi Arabia where the “kuffar” were virtually all non-Sunni Muslims and in informal gatherings where it denoted little more than “non-believer”.

Where does the right to free speech end and the need to ban offensive and inciting language begin? For example, it is ever more popular and acceptable to insult believers or mock their intellectual and moral fibre. AC Grayling describes believers as “those who smugly embrace ignorance”. This echoes the voluntary rejection of truth suggested by the word “kaffir”. He states that “people of faith have rejected the benefits of an open mind”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Commercial Aircraft Deaths Worldwide Up 15 Percent

The highest rate was in Africa. IATA said African airlines accounted for 2 percent of worldwide passenger traffic but 23 percent of serious accidents.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Not Just a Face in the Crowd: The Larger the Gathering, The ‘More Unique the Individual’

It sounds unlikely, but scientists claim being part of a crowd makes you more unique.

Biologists recorded the alarm-call vocalisations in eight species of rodents that live in social groups of various sizes.

They found the size of the groups strongly predicted the individual uniqueness in the animals’ voices.

Simply, the bigger the group then the more unique each animal’s voice typically was and the easier it was to tell individuals apart.

The research, carried out over six years by biologists Dr Daniel Blumstein and Kimberly Pollard, both from the University Of California, Los Angeles, has been published in the journal Current Biology.

Their findings may help explain a fact critical to the everyday lives of humans and other social creatures — why everybody is different.

The reason, the researchers say, is due to a Where’s Wally? effect in which it is difficult to pick one individual out of a crowd, and the bigger the crowd, the harder it becomes.

Lead author Ms Pollard said: ‘Humans and other social creatures can’t just give up when crowds get large.

‘We still must be able to identify our friends, our family and our rivals within that crowd.’

The species that had to contend with bigger crowds did so with more unique voices, the researchers found. The larger the social group, the easier it was to tell any two individual animals apart.

Ms Pollard said: ‘Nature has solved the Where’s Wally? problem by endowing highly social creatures with more unique features, which helps them find their pals in the crowd.’

And if social species — like humans, for example — were to evolve to consistently live in larger and larger groups, this would likely set the stage for the evolution of even greater individuality, the scientists predict.

‘The number of individuals that humans must recognise seems to be growing, especially as we become more globally connected and as social groups become less clearly defined,’ Ms Pollard said.

‘This is probably increasing the evolutionary pressure on our own individuality.

‘This research helps to explain something that is such a core, critical part of our daily experience — our own uniqueness as individuals.

‘Our results shed light on the underlying evolutionary reasons why we are all so different.’…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


kimjongun said...

referring to the child threaten with blindness by NHS managers.

1. How much are these penpushers paid, could the child's treatment be paid for by reducing their salaries to those of a secretary/

2. How much have lawyers been paid to defend the callous attitude of the managers?

3. How much do these managers allow to be spent on alkies and junkies, whose medical problems are their own fault?